Skip to main content
Internet Archive's 25th Anniversary Logo

Full text of "The passing of the armies : an account of the final campaign of the Army of the Potomac, based upon personal reminiscences of the Fifth army corps"

See other formats



university of 




BRITL 973.74 1.C35 c. 1 




3 T1S3 DD0S37TT 5 



_ O 





The Passing of 

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain 
Joshua Lawrence Chamberias 

Bre-sel Mai 

With Portraits and Maos 




The Passing of the 

An Account of the Final Campaign of the 

Army of the Potomac, Based upon 

Personal Reminiscences of 

the Fifth Army Corps 

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain 

Brevet Major-General U. S. Volunteers 

With Portraits and Maps 

G. P. Putnam's Sons 

New York and London 

Zhc ■Binicf^erDocfter presa 



Copyright, 1915 





"Cbc Iftnklicrbocficr Ipvcss, Iftew J3orft 


who won distinction both as a soldier and as 
a citizen, for the State of Maine, and for the 
whole country, was born in Brewer, Maine, Sep- 
tember 8, 1828. His parental lineage is traced 
back to England, but on the mother's side he is 
descended from Jean Dupuis, who came, in 1685, 
with other Huguenots, from La Rochelle to Boston. 
Young Chamberlain was brought up in the country 
district of Brewer. As Greek was not included in 
the curriculum of the school where he prepared 
for college, with the aid of a tutor he attacked 
that language at home, and in six months, at the 
age of nineteen, had mastered the amount required 
for entrance to Bowdoin. In his college course, 
he took honors in every department. After 
his graduation in 1852, he entered the Theologi- 
cal Seminary at Bangor, and for several years 
gave attention to the reading of theology, and 
of church history in Latin and German. His 
work included the study of the Hebrew, Syriac, 
and Arabic languages. He earned an ample in- 
come for his sojourn in the seminary by teaching 
classes of young ladies the German language and 
literature, while he also served as Supervisor of 

iv Biographical Note 

Schools in his native town of Brewer. He continued 
his interest in Sunday-school work, helping to 
maintain a flotirishing school some three miles 
from Bangor. 

In 1856, as a result of his "Master's Oration" 
on "Law and Liberty," he was appointed instructor 
in Bowdoin in Natural and Revealed Religion, a 
post that had been vacated by Professor Stowe. 
A year later, he was elected a Professor of Rhetoric 
and Oratory, which place he held for four years. 
In 1 86 1, he was elected Professor of Modern 
Languages, and in July, 1862, was granted leave of 
absence for two years for the purpose of pursuing 
studies in Europe. The need at this time of the 
Republic for all its able-bodied citizens caused 
him, however, to give up the Eiiropean trip and to 
offer his services for action in the field. In August, 

1862, he went to the front as Lieutenant-Colonel 
of the Twentieth Regiment of Maine Volunteers. 
In May, he received commission as Colonel, the 
duty of which post he had been fulfilling for some 
months. His regiment was included with the Fifth 
Corps, and at Gettysburg on the second of July, 

1863, it held the extreme left of the Union line. 
Colonel Chamberlain's conduct in the memorable 
defense of Little Round Top (a position which 
with admirable judgment had been seized by 
General Warren) was recognized by the Govern- 
ment in the bestowal of the Congressional Medal 
of Honor for "conspicuous personal gallantry and 
distinguished service." 

After Gettysburg, Colonel Chamberlain was 

Biographical Note v 

placed in command of the "Light Brigade," which 
he handled with marked skill in the action at Rap- 
pahannock Station. The wounds received in that 
battle made necessary retirement for a time to the 
Georgetown Hospital, but during his convalesence 
he gave valuable service as member of a Court- 
Martial. He returned to the front in May, 1864, 
when General Warren, at that time in command of 
the Fifth Corps then stationed at Spottsylvania, 
made Colonel Chamberlain the commander of a 
"forlorn hope" of nine regiments which had been 
selected to make a night assault on the enemy's 
works. The position was gained, but Chamberlain 
found his line outflanked, and was compelled to 
withdraw under heavy fire. Shortly after the 
action at Cold Harbor, while still holding the rank 
of Colonel, he was placed in charge of six regiments, 
consolidated as a veteran brigade. With this 
brigade, he made a charge on the enemy's main 
works at Petersburg, as a result of which action he 
was promoted on the field by General Grant to the 
rank of Brigadier-General "for gallant conduct in 
leading his brigade against the superior force of 
the enemy and for meritorious service" throughout 
the campaign. Such promotion on the field was 
most exceptional, and there is possibly no other 
instance during the war. In this charge General 
Chamberlain was seriously wounded, and his 
death was in fact announced. His life was saved 
through the activity of his brother Thomas, late 
Colonel of the Twentieth Maine, and the skill and 
tireless fidelity of the regimental surgeon. Dr. Shaw. 

vi Biographical Note 

During the last campaign of the war, General 
Chamberlain, with two brigades, led the advance 
of the infantry with Sheridan, and in the fight on 
the Quaker Road he was twice wounded and his 
horse was shot under him. For his "conspicuous 
gallantry" in this action, he was promoted to the 
brevet rank of Major-General. In the fight at 
White Oak Road, March 31st, although seriously 
disabled by wounds. General Chamberlain dis- 
tinguished himself by recovering a lost field ; while 
in the battle of Five Forks, of April ist, his prompti- 
tude and skillful handling of troops received again 
official commendation. In the final action near 
Appomattox Court House on the ninth of April, 
Chamberlain was called by General Sheridan to 
replace the leading division of cavalry, and the 
first flag of truce from Longstreet came to Cham- 
berlain's headquarters. His Corps Commander 
says in an official report: "In the final action. 
General Chamberlain had the advance, and at the 
time the announcement of the surrender was made 
he was driving the enemy rapidly before him." 

At the surrender of Lee's army. General Cham- 
berlain was designated to command the parade, 
and it was characteristic of his refined nature that 
he received the surrendering army with a salute of 
honor. At the final grand review in Washington, 
Chamberlain's division was placed at the head of 
the column of the Army of the Potomac. The 
General was mustered out of military service on 
the sixteenth of January, 1866, having decHned 
the offer of a Colonelcy in the regular army. In 

Biographical Note vii 

his service of three-and-a-half years, he had 
participated in twenty hard-fought battles and a 
long series of minor engagements, and he had been 
struck six times by bullet and shell. 

Dxiring his campaign experience, he had shown 
marked ability as a commander, but he had other 
qualities as important, namely, foresight, prudence, 
and a strong sense of responsibility. On his return 
to Maine, he was offered the choice of several 
diplomatic offices abroad, but was at once elected 
Governor of Maine by the largest majority ever 
given in the State. As Governor, while rendering 
exceptional service to the State, he suffered criti- 
cism on various grounds, and among others through 
his support of the course of Senator Fessenden, of 
Maine, in the impeachment of President Johnson. 

In 1876, General Chamberlain was elected 
President of Bowdoin College. In 1878, he was 
appointed by the President of the United States to 
represent the educational interests of the country 
as a commissioner at the World's Exposition in 
Paris, and for this service he received a medal of 
honor from the Government of France. 

In 1883, he resigned the presidency of Bowdoin 
College, but continued for two years longer his 
lectures on public law. During this time, he put 
to one side urgent invitations to the presidency 
of three other colleges of high standing. In 1885, 
finding that the long strain of work and wounds 
demanded a change of occupation, he went to 
Florida as president of a railroad construction 
company. In 1900, General Chamberlain was 

viii Biographical Note 

appointed by President McKinley Surveyor of 
Customs at the port of Portland, and through the 
courtesy of the Government he was enabled to 
make visits to Italy and to Egypt. The General 
was in great request as a speaker, and on various 
occasions his utterances showed a power that was 
thrilling. Among the more noteworthy of these 
addresses may be mentioned the following : 

"Loyalty," before the Loyal Legion in Phila- 

"The Sentiment and Sovereignty of the Coun- 
try," at the Meade Memorial Service in Phila- 

"The State, the Nation, and the People," on 
the dedication of the Maine monument at Gettys- 

"Maine, Her Place in History," at the Centen- 
nial Celebration in Philadelphia in 1876. 

"The Ruling Powers in History," at the cele- 
bration of the beginnings of English settlement on 
the east shores. 

Among his Memorial Addresses were: 

"The Two Souls: Self and Other Self;" "The 
Concentric Personalities. " 

"The Higher Law," conditions on which it may 
override the actual. 

"Personal and Political Responsibility." 

"The Old Flag and the New Nation"; "The 
Expanding Power of Principles." 

"The Destruction of the Maine''; "Salute to the 
New Peace Power." 

The General received from Pennsylvania Uni- 

Biographical Note ix 

versity in 1866, the degree of Doctor of Laws, and 
from Bowdoin in 1869 the same degree. 

His death came on the 24th of February, 19 14. 
His life had been well rounded out and his years 
were crowded with valuable service to his state and 
to his country. 

A gallant soldier, a great citizen, and a good man ; 
the name of Joshua L. Chamberlain will through 
the years to come find place in the list of dis- 
tinguished Americans. 

G. H. P. 

New York, April, 19 15. 

Note. — The narrative here presented is sub- 
stantially complete, but the author's death pre- 
vented it from receiving the advantage of a final 
revision. The book has been prepared for the 
press under the supervision of his children. It 
now comes Into publication just half a century 
after the period of the stirring events described. 


HISTORY is written for the most part from 
the outside. Truth often suffers distortion 
by reason of the point of view of the 
narrator, some pre-occupation of his judgment or 
fancy not only as to relative merits but even as to 
facts in their real relations. An interior view may 
not be without some personal coloring. But it 
must be of interest, especially in important trans- 
actions, to know how things appeared to those 
actually engaged in them. Action and passion 
on such a scale must bear some thoughts "that 
run before and after." It has been deemed a 
useful observance "to see ourselves as others see 
us," but it may sometimes be conducive to a just 
comprehension of the truth to let others see us as 
we see ourselves. 

The view here presented is of things as they 
appeared to us who were concerned with them 
as subordinate commanders, — having knowledge, 
however, of the general plan, and a share in the 
responsibility for its execution. This is a chapter 
of experiences, — including in this term not only 
what was done, but what was known and said and 
thought and felt, — not to say, suffered; and in its 
darkest passages showing a steadfast purpose, 

xii Introductory 

patience, and spirit of obedience deserving of 
record even if too often without recompense, until 
the momentous consummation. 

These memoirs are based on notes made nearly 
at the time of the events which they describe. 
They give what may be called an interior view of 
occurrences on the front of the Fifth Corps, Army 
of the Potomac, during the last essay in Grant's 
Virginia campaign. This was so distinctive in 
character, conditions, and consequences, that I 
have ventured to entitle it "The Last Campaign 
of the Armies." 

I trust this narrative may not seem to arrogate 
too much for the merits of the Fifth Corps. No 
eminence is claimed for it beyond others in that 
campaign. But the circumstance that this Corps 
was assigned to an active part with Sheridan dur- 
ing the period chiefly in view — the envelopment 
and final out-flanking of Lee's army — warrants 
the prominence given in this review. 

It may be permitted to hope that this simple 
recital may throw some light on a passage of the 
history of this Corps, the record of which has 
been obscured in consequence of the summary 
change of commanders early in the campaign. 

The Fifth Corps had a certain severity of reputa- 
tion quite distinctive in the comradeship of the 
army. Early in its history. Porter's Division — 
the nucleus of it — had drawn the especial praise of 
General McClellan for its soldierly bearing and 
proficiency, being unfortunately referred to in 
orders as a model for the rest of the army. This 

Introductory xiii 

had the effect of creating on the part of others a 
feeling of jealousy towards that Division or an 
opposition to apparent favoritism shown its com- 
mander, which was extended to the whole Corps 
on its formation in the summer of 1862, when ^ the 
Regulars were assigned to it as its Second Division, 
and the choice Pennsylvania Reserves became its 
Third Division. This feeling certainly was neither 
caused nor followed by anything like boastfulness 
or self-complacency on the part of the Fifth Corps ; 
but, if anything, created a sense of responsibility 
and willingness to "endure hardness as good 
soldiers" to make good their reputation. And no 
doubt the discipline of the Corps was quite severe. 
Most of its commanding officers in the superior 
grades were West Pointers, and experienced offi- 
cers of the old army, and prided themselves on 
strict observance of Army Regulations and military 
habitudes. The required personal relations be- 
tween officers and men were quite novel and but 
slowly acquiesced in by volunteers who were first- 
class citizens at home, — many of them equal to 
their official "superiors." For example: my young 
brother, Tom, when a private in my regiment 
came sometimes to see me in my tent, but would 
not think of sitting down in my presence unless 
specially invited to do so. • But he went home from 
Appomattox Lieutenant- Colonel of his regiment 
and Brevet-Colonel of United States Volunteers — 
and this on his own merits, not through any sug- 
gestion of mine. 

Passages in the history of the Corps had en- 

xiv Introductory 

deared its members to each other, and brought out 
soldierly pride and manly character; but boastful 
assertion and just glorification of their Corps were 
remarkably less manifest among its members than 
with those of every one of the other splendid Corps 
of the Army of the Potomac. 

It may not be improper to state here that there 
was a manifest prejudice against the Fifth Corps 
at Government Headquarters, — particularly at 
Stanton's, — on account of the supposed attachment 
for McClellan and Porter among its members. 
This was believed to be the reason why no pro- 
motion to the rank of General Officers was made 
in this Corps for a long time, unless secured by 
political influence. Brigades and even divisions 
were in many cases commanded by colonels of 
State regiments. This worked a great injustice in 
the fact that officers of similar commands in the 
different Corps were not of similar relative rank, 
and some were therefore unduly subordinated to 
those who were not in fact their superiors in ser- 
vice. There was also a practical injustice in the 
added expense of supporting headquarters above 
lineal rank, which, with no extra pay or allowance, 
quite cancelled the compliment. 

It had not been the habit in the Fifth Corps to 
encourage detailed reports on the part of sub- 
ordinates, and in the rush and pressure of this 
last campaign there was less opportunity or care 
than ever for such matters, and the impressiveness 
of its momentous close left little disposition to 
multiply words upon subordinate parts or partici- 

Introductory xv 

pants. The fact also of an early and sudden change 
in the grand tactics of the campaign confused the 
significance and sometimes the identity of import- 
ant movements; and the change of commanders 
in the crisis of its most important battle induced 
consequences which, even in official reports and 
testimony afterwards called for, affected the motive 
in sharply defining actions where personal concern 
had come to be an embarrassing factor. 

Very naturally, the immediate reports of those 
days are meager in the extreme ; and very much of 
what has come out since, partaking of official 
character, has been under the disadvantage of 
being elicited as ex parte testimony before military 
tribunals where the highest military officers of the 
Government were parties, and the attitudes of 
plaintiff and defendant almost inevitably biased 

In the strange lull after the surrender of Lee and 
the sudden release from intense action and re- 
sponsibility, but as yet in the field and in the active 
habit not readily relinquished, it occurred to me, 
impressed with the deep-wrought visions of those 
tragic days, to write down, while fresh in mind and 
mood, some salient facts of that last campaign, 
within my personal knowledge and observation, 
to serve for fireside memories in after years, and 
for the satisfaction of some others who had given 
of their best for the great issues in which these 
scenes were involved. 

It has been suggested to me of late that these 
reminiscences might be of interest to a wider circle 

xvi Introductory 

whose hearts respond to the story of things done 
and suffered for truth and honor's sake, which 
they would have gladly shared in their own persons. 
In preparing for this more exacting demand I have 
availed myself of additional material which, in the 
later consolidations in the Fifth Corps, successive 
assignments brought into my hands: particularly 
the office-copy of the Corps field-orders for the last 
campaign, and also the invaluable original records 
of the Medical Inspector of the Corps for that 
period. Later, came the (now suppressed) volumes 
of the records of the Warren Court of Inquiry, and 
the extensive Records of the War of the Rebellion. 
In revising this personal memoir, I have diligently 
consulted these, but have found no occasion to 
correct or modify the account given from my own 
point of view, however limited. Qualifying or 
corroborative testimony from these sources, when 
introduced, has been clearly indicated. 

I confess some embarrassments of a personal 
nature in giving forth certain passages of this 
record. These facts, however simply stated, cannot 
but have some bearing on points which have been 
drawn into controversy on the part of persons 
who were dear to me as commanders and com- 
panions in arms, and who have grown still dearer 
in the intimacies of friendship since the war. 
Alas ! that no one of them can answer my greeting 
across the bar. I feel therefore under increased 
responsibility in recounting these things, but 
assure myself that I know of no demand of per- 
sonality or partisanship which should make me 

Introductory xvii 

doubtful of my ability to tell the truth as I saw 
and knew it, or distrust my judgment in forming 
an opinion. 

J. L. C. 


Biographical Note . 
Introductory .... 


I. The Situation 

II. The Overture 

III. The White Oak Road . 

IV. Five Forks 

V. The Week of Flying Fights 

VI. Appomattox 

VII. The Return of the Army 

VIII. The Encampment 

IX. The Last Review . 

X. Sherman's Army 

XI. The Disbandment . 













Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain , Frontispiece 

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain ... 2 

General Map Showing " Operations of the 

Army of the Potomac " . . . .38 

Map Showing the White Oak Road and Five 
Forks ........ 98 

Map of Five Forks, General Engagement of 
Cavalry and Infantry . . . .124 

The Passing of the Armies 



IT was a dreamy camp along the lines investing 
Petersburg in the winter following the "all- 
stimmer ' ' campaign of 1 864, — that never-to-be- 
forgotten, most dismal of years. Although shad- 
owed at the very beginning by melancholy tokens 
of futile endeavor and grievous losses, — consolida- 
tions of commands which obliterated the place and 
name of proud and beloved corps and divisions, — 
flags made sacred by heroic service and sacrifice 
of noble manhood now folded away with tender 
reverence, or perhaps by special favor permitted 
to be borne beside those of new assignments, 
bearing the commanding presence of great memo- 
ries, pledge and talisman of unswerving loyalty, 
though striking sorrow to every heart that knew 
their history, — yet this seemed not to make for 
weakness but rather for settled strength. We 
started out full of faith and hope under the new 
dispensation, resolved at all events to be worthy 
of our past and place. 

2 The Passing of the Armies 

Now all was over. The summer had passed, and 
the harvest was but of death. New and closer 
consolidations, more dreary obliterations, brought 
the survivors nearer together. 

For this dismal year had witnessed that ever 
repeated, prolific miracle, — the invisible, ethereal 
soul of man resisting and overcoming the material 
forces of nature; scorning the inductions of logic, 
reason, and experience, persisting in its purpose 
and identity; this elusive apparition between two 
worlds unknown, deemed by some to be but the 
chance product of intersecting vortices of atoms 
and denied to be even a force, yet outfacing the 
solid facts of matter and time, defying disaster and 
dissolution, and, by a most real metempsychosis, 
transmitting its imperishable purpose to other 
hearts with the cumulative courage of immortal 

Give but the regard of a glance to the baldest 
outline of what was offered and suffered, given and 
taken, lost and held, in that year of tragedy. That 
long-drawn, tete baissee (bull-headed), zig-zag race 
from the Rapidan to the Appomattox; that des- 
perate, inch-worm advance along a front of fire, 
with writhing recoil at every touch ; that reiterated 
dissolving view of death and resurrection: the 
Wilderness, Spottsylvania, the North Anna, Cold 
Harbor, Petersburg; unspoken, unspeakable his- 
tory. Call back that roseate May morning, all 
the springs of life athrill, that youthful army 
pressing the bridges of the Rapidan, flower of 
Northern homes, thousands upon thousands; tested 



,)arition between two 
by some to be but the 

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain 

The Situation 3 

in valor, disciplined by experience, hearts swelling 
with manly courage, confident trust, and supreme 
devotion, — to be plunged straightway into hell- 
like horrors; the murderous maze where desperate 
instinct replaced impossible tactics; men mowing 
each other down almost at hand-reach, invisible 
each to each till the flaming muzzles cut lurid 
windows through the matted brush and bramble 
walls, and underneath the darkened woods low- 
lying cannon and bursting shells set the earth itself 
on fire, and wrapped in winding sheets of flame 
unnimibered, thick-strewn bodies of dead and 
dying, never to be found or known on earth again. 

Then the rushing, forced flank-movements, 
known and overmatched by the ever alert enemy; 
followed by reckless front attacks, where highest 
valor was deepest loss ; buff etings on bloody angles ; 
butcherings in slaughter pens, — all the way down 
to the fateful Chickahominy once more — a cam- 
paign under fire for twenty-seven days and nights 
together; morning reports at last not called for, 
and when we asked explanation our superiors an- 
swered, — confidentially, lest it seem disloyal : ' ' Be- 
cause the country would not stand it, if they knew." 

What wonder that men who have passed through 
such things together, — no matter on which side 
arrayed, — should be wrought upon by that strange 
power of a common suffering which so divinely 
passes into the power of a common love. 

A similar fate befell the new hope kindled by 
Grant's sudden change to a new base of opera- 
tions, — a movement bold if not hazardous, being 

The Passing: of the Armies 


practically a change of front under fire for the 
whole army on a grand scale. Skillfully withdraw- 
ing from the enemy's front by secret orders and 
forced marches, swiftly crossing the James River 
on transports and pontoons, hurrying forward to 
strike a surprise on weakly-defended Petersburg, 
and thus cut Lee's main communications and 
turn his entire position — seemed good generalship. 
But the bold plan and generous following stultified 
by confusion of understandings and supine delays 
of subordinates, brought all to nought once more 
with terrible recoil and reckoning. Then the long 
slow fever of profitless minor action and wasteful 
inaction, with the strange anomaly of a mutual 
siege ; crouching in trenches, skulking under bomb- 
proofs and covered ways, lining parapets where to 
show a head was to lure a bullet, picketing a 
crowded hostile front where the only tenure of 
life was the tacit understanding of a common 
humanity, perpetual harassing by spasmodic raid 
or futile dash, slow creepings fiankward yet never 
nearer the main objective; — such was the weari- 
some, wearing experience, month after month, the 
new year bringing no sign nor hope that anything 
better could be done on that line than had been so 
dearly and vainly tried before. 

The resultant mood of such a front was not 
relieved by what reached us from the rear. The 
long-suffering, and helpless grief of homes; the 
sore-tried faith and patience of the whole North 
almost faltering; recruiting disenchanted, supple- 
mented by enormous bounties and finally by 

The Situation 5 

draft and conscription; newspapers jeering at the 
impotence of the army; self-seeking poHticians at 
the Capitol plotting against the President; hosts 
of spoilsmen at all points seizing advantage of the 
country's distress, enriching themselves out of the 
generous, hard-earned offerings to meet her needs 
and repair her losses; cabal and favoritism in 
places of power, perpetrating a thousand injustices 
upon officers and soldiers in the field; — through 
all this, seen and known and felt, from first to last, 
these men of the Army of the Potomac, — godlike, 
if something short of sainthood, — this army, on 
which the heaviest brunt had fallen and was to fall, 
held up its heart where it could not hold up its 
head; with loyalty unswerving, obedience un- 
questioning, courage that asks not cheer, and 
devotion out-vying all that life holds dearest or 
death most terrible. 

This army — but what army? Is this identity a 
thing of substance, or spirit, or of name only? 
Is this the army which bright as its colors thronged 
the bridges of the Rapidan on that May morning 
less than a year before, and vanished into the 
murk of the Wilderness? Or is it scarcely the 
half of them; stern-faced by realities, saddened and 
perchance also strengthened by visions of the lost, 
the places of these filled by fresh youth's vicarious 
offering, united as one by the comradeship of arms 
and strong with the contagion of soul? 

But perhaps this vein of emotion is tiresome. 
Let us seek relief in figures, — which some people 
regard as the only reliable facts. 

6 The Passing of the Armies 

The number of men of all arms present for duty 
equipped in the Army of the Potomac at the 
opening of Grant's campaign, as shown by the 
consolidated morning reports of May 4, 1864, was 
97, 162. In the Annual Report of Secretary Stanton, 
November 22, 1865, this total is stated as 120,384. 
He evidently takes the number as borne upon 
the rolls in his office, which by no means always 
agrees with the field lists of those present for duty 
equipped, the absent on leave or detail, or other- 
wise, being usually at a high percentage of the 
total. The careful compilation of Adjutant-General 
Drum made from official field returns at this time 
gives the number present for duty equipped at 
97,273 — in remarkable agreement with the figures 
taken in the field.' The number of men available 
for battle in the Fifth Corps at the start was 
25,695. The character of the fighting In this 
campaign may be shown, however dimly, by citing 
here the report of our Corps field hospital for one 
day only, that of the engagement at Laurel Hill, 
May 8, 1864: "Admitted to hospital, 3001; of 
whom 106 were from other corps; 27 Confederates; 
107 sick. Sent to the rear, 2388 ; fell Into the hands 
of the enemy, 391; died in hospital, 121; left 206, 
of whom 126 were able to walk In the morning." 

Or take the totals treated In the field hospital 
alone for the first nine days of the campaign. 
Number admitted, 5257; sent to the rear, 4190; 
died in hospital, 1 79 ; fell Into hands of the enemy, 

• Compare the admirable showing of that clear-headed officer, Gen- 
eral A. A. Humphreys, Virginia Campaign, Appendix, p. 409. 

The Situation 7 

787. Adding to this the number killed outright, 
not less than 1200, and the "missing," a list we 
do not like to analyze, not less than 1555, makes a 
total loss in the Corps of more than 7000 men. And 
the casualties of the six weeks from the Rapidan 
to the James bring the total to 16,245. This is 
3398 more than half the present for duty at the 

The records of the Medical Inspector of the 
Fifth Corps show the number admitted to the 
field hospitals alone from May 5th to June 19th 
to have been 11,105 of the Corps, besides many 
from other corps and not a few Confederates. 
Reckoning the killed outright as 2200, and the 
missing as 4000, — which is quite within the fact, — 
makes a total of casualties for this period 17,305. 

Taking another source of information, we find in 
the Adjutant-General's Report of losses in the 
Corps as given in the official returns of regiments 
for the same period, the killed as 1670; the wounded 
10,150; the missing, 4416, — a total of 16,235. 
Taking the additional wounded given in the field 
hospital records, 955, — who would not appear on 
the regimental morning reports, — we reach the 
total of 17,190. The difference in these figures is 
remarkably slight considering that they come from 
sources so distinct. 

And the restless, fruitless fighting before Peters- 
burg during the remainder of that year brought the 
total loss in the Corps up to 18,000, — this being 
almost a thousand more than two thirds of the 
bright faces that crossed the Rapidan in the star- 

8 The Passing of the Armies 

light of that May morning, now gone down to 
earth, or beneath it, — and yet no end! 

Colonel W. H. Powell in his History of the Fifth 
Corps, published since the above was written, 
gives this total loss as 17,861. It does not appear 
whether he takes into account the losses of the 
Corps in the assault of June i8th on the salient 
covering the Norfolk Railroad and the Jerusalem 
Plank Road. Owing to the casualties among 
commanders, the action of that day has never been 
adequately reported. Colonel Powell had no data 
on which to base a just account of the overture of 
Forts Sedgwick and Mahone, — surnamed by the 
performers Fort Hell and Fort Damnation. 

Glance now at the record of the whole army. 
Those treated in the field hospitals up to the end 
of October were officially reported as numbering 
57,498, and to the end of December, 68,840.^ Some 
of these, no doubt were cases of sickness, a no less 
real casualty; but taking the ratio of one fifth the 
wounded as indicating the number of the killed 
outright, we reach a total of 59,000 men killed 
and wounded in this campaign up to October 3 1 , 
1864. This is to take no account of the "missing, " 
— a list governed by no law of ratios, but de- 
termined by the peculiar circumstances of each 
battle; always a list sad to contemplate, made 
up by no means of skulkers and deserters, but 
mostly of those who had been placed by the in- 
competence of commanders or thrown by the 

' Report of Surgeon McParlin, Medical Director of the Army of the 

The Situation 9 

vicissitudes of battle into positions where they 
were helpless, and fell into the hands of the enemy 
as prisoners, or some too brave spirits that had cut 
their way through the enemy's lines, or others still 
who had been left wounded and had crawled away 
to die. But adding here to the 59,000 killed and 
wounded given above the 6000 more lost in the 
various operations around Petersburg up to March 
28, 1865, and counting the missing at the moderate 
number of 10,000 for this period, we have the 
aggregate of 75,000 men cut down in the Army of 
the Potomac to mark the character of the service 
and the cost of the campaign thus far. 

If any minds demanding exactitude are troubled 
at the slight discrepancies in these reports, they 
may find relief in a passage in the Report of Surgeon 
Dalton, Chief Medical Officer of Field Hospitals 
for this campaign. He says of his experience with 
the treatment of disabled men in the field : 

It is impossible to convey an accurate idea of the num- 
ber of sick and wounded who have received attention in 
this hospital, — that following the army. Hundreds passed 
through under circumstances which rendered it impossible 
to register their names or even accurately estimate their 
numbers. So unremitting were the calls for professional 
duty during the first fortnight that it was impossible to 
prepare morning reports, and it was not until the loth of 
May that even a numerical report was attempted. From 
that date the daily reports show that from the i6th of May 
to the 31st of October, 1864, there have been received into 
this hospital and treated for at least forty-eight hours, 
68,540 sick and wounded officers and men.^ 

' Rebellion Records, Serial 60, p. 271, and Serial 67, p. 269. 

10 The Passine of the Armies 


I have often thought it would be profitable 
reading for some if a competent observer would 
recount the scenes at the rear of a fighting army- 
removing from the field after a great battle. A 
glimpse of this was given at Fredericksburg in '62. 

But to throw light on our present topic by one 
more comparison, let us turn to the records of the 
Confederates for this campaign. According to 
the careful investigations of General Humphreys, 
the number of effective men in Lee's army, including 
cavalry, at the opening of Grant's campaign, was 
not less than 62,000; and at the opening of the 
spring campaign of '65, not less than 57,000. The 
accxiracy of this is undoubted. 

The striking fact is thus established that we had 
more men killed and wounded in the first six 
months of Grant's campaign, than Lee had at any 
one period of it in his whole army. The hammering 
business had been hard on the hammer. 

If these conclusions seem to rest too much on 
estimates (although in every case inductions from 
unquestioned fact) , let me offer the solid testimony 
of General Grant in his official report of November 
I, 1864. He gives the casualties in the Army of the 
Potomac from May 5th to October 30th as: killed 
10,572; wounded, 53,975; missing, 23,858;— an 
aggregate of 88,405, a result far more striking than 
those adduced, and more than confirming the 
statement of our losses as by far exceeding the 
whole number of men in Lee's army at any time 
in this last campaign.^ 

' Rebellion Records, Serial 67, p. 193. 

The Situation ii 

I offer no apology for this long stirvey of figures. 
There is abundant reason for it for the sake of 
fact, as well as occasion in existing sentiment. 
Among other interesting reflections, these facts 
and figures afford useful suggestions to those easily 
persuaded persons of the South or elsewhere, who 
please themselves with asserting that our Western 
armies "did all the fighting." Lorgnettes will get 
out of order — especially to the cross-eyed. 

The aspect in which the men of our army have 
been presented has been mainly that of their 
elementary manhood, the antique virtues that 
made up valor: courage, fortitude, self-command. 
It is not possible to separate these from other per- 
sonal activities of perhaps higher range than the 
physical; because, in truth, these enter largely 
into the exercise and administration of manhood. 
It seems now to be an accepted maxim of war that 
the "moral" forces — meaning by that term what 
we call the spiritual, pertaining specially to the 
mind or soul — far outweigh the material. Few 
would now claim that "victory is always with the 
heaviest battalions." All great contests are in- 
spired by sentiments, such as justice, pity, faith, 
loyalty, love, or perhaps some stirring ideal of the 
rightful and possible good. Even the commoner 
instincts partake of this nature: self-respect, 
sanctity of the person, duty and affection towards 
others, obedience to law, the impulse to the redress 
of injury, vengeance for outrage. Something of 
this entered into our motive at first. But deeper 
tests brought deeper thought. In the strange 

12 . The Passing of the Armies 

succession of reverses greater reaches were dis- 
closed; sentiments took on their highest sanction. 
Our place in hiiman brotherhood, our responsibility 
not only in duty for Country, but as part in its 
very being, came impressively into view. Our 
volunteer soldiers felt that they were part of the 
very people whose honor and life they were to 
maintain; they recognized that they were entitled 
to participate so far as they Vv^ere able, in the 
thought and conscience and will of that supreme 
"people" whose agents and instruments they were 
in the field of arms. 

This recognition was emphasized by the fact 
that the men in the field were authorized to vote 
in the general election of President of the United 
States, and so to participate directly in the ad- 
ministration of the government and the deter- 
mination of public policy. The result of this vote 
showed how much stronger was their allegiance to 
principle than even their attachment to McClellan, 
whose personal popularity in the army was some- 
thing marvelous. The men voted overwhelmingly 
for Lincoln. They were unwilling that their long 
fight should be set down as a failure, even though 
thus far it seemed so. The fact that this war was 
in its reach of meaning and consequent effect so 
much more than what are commonly called "civil 
wars," — this being a war to test and finally deter- 
mine the character of the interior constitution and 
real organic life of this great people, — brought into 
the field an amount of thoughtfulness and moral 
reflection not usual in armies. The Roman army 

The Situation 13 

could make emperors of generals, but thoughtful 
minds and generous hearts were wanting to save 
Rome from the on-coming, invisible doom. 

But volunteers like ours were held by a con- 
sciousness not only rooted in instinctive love and 
habitual reverence but also involving spiritual and 
moral considerations of the highest order. The 
motive under which they first sprung to the front 
was an impulse of sentiment, — the honor of the 
old flag and love of Country. All that the former 
stood for, and all that the latter held undetermined, 
they did not stop to question. They would settle 
the fact that they had a country and then consider 
the reasons and rights of it. There was, indeed, an 
instinctive apprehension of what was involved in 
this; but only slowly as the struggle thickened, 
and they found their antagonists claiming to rest 
their cause on principles similar to their own, they 
were led to think more deeply, to analyze their 
concrete ideals, to question, to debate, to test 
loyalty by thoughts of right and reason. We had 
opportunity to observe the relative merits of 
Regulars and Volunteers. Two rather divergent 
opinions had been common as to the professional 
soldiers of the rank and file. One was that they 
were of inferior grade as men; the other that they 
were vastly superior as soldiers to any volunteers. 
It must be allowed that the trained soldier has 
the merit of habitual submission to discipline, obed- 
ience to orders, a certain professional pride, and 
at least a temporary loyalty to the cause in which 
he is engaged. The superior efficiency of the regu- 

14 The Passing of the Armies 

lar over the volunteer is generally asserted. But 
this is founded more on conditions than on charac- 
ter. It derives its acceptance from the fact that 
volunteers are called out in an exigency, and take 
the field in haste, without experience or prepara- 
tion, or even knowledge of the conditions pertain- 
ing to the art of war. They answer some call of 
the heart, or constraining moral obligation. But 
these volunteers may in due time become skilled 
in all these requisites: discipline, obedience, and 
even practical knowledge of the many technicali- 
ties of the art of war. Such veterans may become 
quite the equals of regulars in the scale of military 

So, on the other hand, the regular may be as 
intelligent as the citizen soldier, and animated by 
motives as high. As to the regular officers, there 
can be no question of their superior qualifications. 
They are educated for this profession, and specially 
in all that serves as basis for loyalty to country. 
As to the rank and file of regular troops, history 
sometimes refers to them as mercenaries, workers 
for pay, and they have been stigmatized as "hire- 
lings." But this is abuse, even of history. The 
word soldier does indeed mean the man paid for his 
service instead of being bound to serve by feudal 
obligation.^ But no one can despise such soldiers 
who remember the conduct of the Swiss Guard of 
Louis XVI. of France, cowardly forsaken by his 

' This pay was in the form ot the "soldi" (from the Latin "solidus"), 
the real money, the piece of soHd metal, represented to-day in the 
French "sou." 

The Situation 15 

own; but these loyal spirits, for the manhood that 
was in them and not for pay, stood by him to the 
last living man of them, whose heroism the proud 
citizens of their native home have fittingly com- 
memorated in Thorwaldson's Lion of Lucerne. 

And we certainly held our regulars dear, from 
long association, and could only speak their name 
with honor when we thought of the desperate 
charge down from the Round Tops of Gettysburg 
into the maelstrom of death swirling around the 
"Devil's Den," from which but half their numbers 
emerged, and these so wrought upon that they 
were soon after released from service in the field 
to recover strength. 

These veterans of ours were the equals of regulars 
even if they received a nominal pay ; equals in dis- 
cipline, in knowledge, skill, and valor. They were 
superior in that they represented the homes and 
ideals of the country, and not only knew what they 
were fighting for but also held it dear. 

The same tendency of thought and feeling was, 
no doubt, in the hearts of our adversaries, although 
their loyalty seems to have been held longer by 
the primal instincts. This appeared not merely in 
the fervid exhortations of commanders and officials, 
but in the prevailing spirit of the men in the ranks, 
with whom we had occasional conference across the 
picket lines, or in brief interviews with prisoners. 
The prime motive with these men was no doubt, 
like ours, grounded in the instincts of manhood. 
They sprang to arms for the vindication of what 
they had been accustomed to regard as their rights 

i6 The Passinof of the Armies 


by nature and law. By struggling and suffering 
for the cause this thought was rather intensified 
than broadened. But in these lulls reflection 
began to enlarge vision. This matter of rights and 
duties presents itself, as it were, in concentric 
spheres, within which polarities are reversed as 
values rise. The right to property must yield 
to the right to life; individual happiness must be 
subordinated to the general well-being; duty to 
country must outweigh all the narrower demands 
of self-interest. So the sight of "the old flag," 
which stood for the guaranty of highest human 
rights, and which they were now striving to beat 
down in defeat and dishonor, must have affected 
their sober thoughts. There was no little evidence 
of this as the winter and the weary siege wore on. 
It came to our knowledge in the early months of 
the new year that heavy desertions were going on 
every day in Lee's army, — especially among the 
Virginians. We had reason to believe that it was 
the personal magnetism of their great commander 
that kept alive the spirit of that brave army. The 
chivalrous sense of personal loyalty was strong with 
those men. 

Our acquaintance had been peculiarly intimate 
and deep, and we had for them a strong personal 
regard. The "causes" were wide apart, but the 
manhood was the same. We had occasion to ob- 
serve their religious character. More free thought 
and wider range of code no doubt prevailed in our 
Northern army; but what we are accustomed to 
call simple, personal piety was more manifest in 

The Situation 17 

the Confederate ranks than in ours. Not pre- 
suming to estimate the influence of particular cases 
of higher officers, like Stonewall Jackson or Gen- 
eral Howard, making prominent their religious 
principles and proclivities, but fully recognizing 
the general religious character of most of the 
officers and men from our Northern homes, it must 
be admitted that the expression of religious senti- 
ment and habit was more common and more earn- 
est in the Confederate camp than in ours. 

In one thing we took "the touch of elbow." It 
was no uncommon incident that from close oppos- 
ing bivouacs and across hushed breastworks at 
evening voices of prayer from over the way would 
stir our hearts, and floating songs of love and 
praise be caught up and broadened into a mighty 
and thrilling chorus by our men softening down in 
cadences like enfolding wings. Such moments 
were surely a "Truce of God." 

I have said the men kept up heart. So they did, 
— exactly that. It was a certain loyalty of soul, 
rather than persistence of vital energies. The 
experiences which had hardened the spiritual nerve, 
had relaxed the physical fiber. The direct effects 
of bodily over-strain reach to the nervous centers 
and the boimdaries of spirit. Exhausting forced 
marches, through choking dust, btirning suns, sti- 
fling heat even in the shade, swampy bivouacs, ma- 
larious airs laden with the off-castings of rotting 
vegetation, or worse at times, from innum.erable 
bodies of men and animals dead or living ; strange 
forms of sickness, unexampled and irremediable, 

i8 The Passing of the Armies 

experiences borne only by stubborn patience or 
heroic pride, — such things tell at last. Then the 
battles, horrible scenes, shocking the senses, bur- 
rowing in memory to live again in dreams and 
haunting visions, all these things together work 
upon the inner, vital, or spiritual forces which re- 
late us to the real persistent substance — ^whether 
ethereal or of some yet finer form not yet dreamed 
of in our philosophy. 

But men are made of mind and soul as well as 
body. We deal not only with exercises of the 
senses, but with deeper consciousness; affections, 
beliefs, ideals, conceptions of causes and effects, 
relations and analogies, and even conjectures of a 
possible order and organization different from what 
we experience in the present world of sense. All 
these powers and workings have part in the make- 
up of manhood. Men are not machines; although 
it is said the discipline of army life tends to make 
them such, and that this is essential to their ef- 
ficiency. A remark which needs to be set in larger 

The men of the rank and file in our army of 
volunteers before Petersburg besides being seasoned 
soldiers were endowed and susceptible according to 
their spiritual measure. Their life was not merely 
in their own experiences but in larger sympathies. 
Their environment, which is thought to determine 
character so largely, consisted for them not only in 
material things but also much in memories and 
shadowings. Things were remnants and reminders. 
Lines stood thinner; circles ever narrowing. Corps 

The Situation 19 

fought down to divisions; divisions to brigades; 
these again broken and the shattered regiments 
consoHdated under the token and auspices of their 
States, — as if reverting to their birthright, and 
being "gathered to their fathers." Old flags, — yes, 
but crowded together not by on-rush to battle, 
but by thinning ranks bringing the dear more near. 
Then the vacant places of lost comrades, seen as 
"an aching void" both as to fact and suggestion. 
And even the coming in of new, fresh faces was 
not without its cast of shadow. The officers, too, 
who had gone down were of the best known* 
trusted, and beloved. What has gone takes some- 
thing with it, and when this is of the dear, nothing 
can fill the place. All the changes touched the 
border of sorrows. 

The strength of great memories, pride of historic 
continuity, unfailing loyalty of purpose and resolve 
held these men together in unity of form and spirit. 
But there seemed some slackening of the old nerve 
and verve; and service was sustained more from 
the habit of obedience and instinct of duty, than 
with that sympathetic intuition which inspires 
men to exceed the literal of orders or of obligations. 

Curious people often ask the question whether 
in battle we are not affected by fear, so that our 
actions are influenced by it; and some are prompt 
to answer, "Yes, surely we are, and anybody who 
denies it is a braggart or a liar." I say to such, 
"Speak for yourselves." A soldier has something 
else to think about. Most men at the first, or at 
some tragic moment, are aware of the present peril. 

20 The Passing of the Armies 

and perhaps flinch a Httle by an instinct of nature 
and sometimes accept the foregoing confession, — • 
as when I have seen men pin their names to their 
breasts that they may not be buried unknown. 
But any action following the motive of fear is rare, 
— for sometimes I have seen men rushing to the 
front in a terrific fire, "to have it over with." 

But, as a rule, men stand up from one motive 
or another — simple manhood, force of discipline, 
pride, love, or bond of comradeship — "Here is 
Bill; I will go or stay where he does." And an 
officer is so absorbed by the sense of responsibility 
for his men, for his cause, or for the fight that 
the thought of personal peril has no place what- 
ever in governing his actions. The instinct to 
seek safety is overcome by the instinct of honor. 

There are exceptions. This is the rule and law of 
manhood: fearlessness in the face of all lesser 
issues because he has faced the greater — the 
commanding one. 

This exposition of the state of mind and body 
among our officers and men in the later operations 
along the Petersburg lines may help to find a 
reason for their failure. For instance, the fiasco 
of the mine explosion of July 30th, where well- 
laid plans and costly and toilsome labors were 
brought to shameful disaster through lack of 
earnest co-operation, and strange lethargy of 
participants. For another instance, the unex- 
ampled reverses of our renowned Second Corps at 
Ream's Station, August 24th, where, after every 
purpose and prospect of success, these veterans 

The Situation 21 

were qiiickly driven from their entrenchments, 
even abandoning their guns, — conduct contrary 
to their habit and contradictory of their character. 

But these were exceptional even if illustrative 
cases. Along our lines reigned a patient fortitude, 
a waiting expectation, unswerving loyalty, that 
kind of faith which is the "evidence of things 

Among these men were some doubly deserving — 
comrades whom we thought lost, bravely returning. 
Many of those earlier wounded, or sickened, and 
sent to general hospital, proving to be not utterly 
disabled, and scorning the plea of the poltroon, 
came back to their appointed place. So others, too, 
with like spirit, from the starving, wasting, and 
wearing experience of prisons, passing though the 
valley of the shadow of death, came to answer 
again the names that honored our roll-call, — those 
who could stand up to do it. 

Such were the remnants of that great company 
of heroic souls named the Army of the Potomac. 
Knowing full well the meaning of such words as 
hardship and suffering, facing unknown fields of 
sorrows yet to come, they stood fast by their 
consecration, offering all there is in manhood for the 
sake of what is best in man. If sometimes a 
shadow passes over such spirits, it needs neither 
confession nor apology. 

Within a short time now the term of enlistment 
of not a few regiments had expired, and they were 
mustered out of service with honor. It was a time 
when they were sorely needed ; but we can scarcely 

22 The Passing of the Armies 

blame those who thought duty did not call them 
to prolong their experiences. Many, however, 
straightway enlisted in other regiments, new or old, 
and thus rendered a double service — material 
force and inspiring example. 

In some instances whole regiments had re- 
enlisted, under the old name or a new one. Such 
were five noble Pennsylvania regiments of m.y 
own brigade of June, 1 864. Remnants of regiments 
also, left from casualties of the field or by term of 
enlistment, were consolidated into one, named and 
numbered by its State order. Such were the ist 
Maine Veterans, made up of the 5th, 6th, and 7th, 
of glorious record. 

Others, too, had come in to replace and reinforce, 
with like brave spirit, and perhaps with severer 
test,^heavy artillery regiments, full to the maxi- 
mum in numbers, from important positions in the 
rear, as the defenses of Washington, and not ex- 
pecting to be called to the front. With the ad- 
vantage of military discipline and acclimatization, 
their ponderous lines rolled on the astonished foe, 
with swift passages to glorious death and undying 
fame. Witness the action of the ist Maine Heavy 
Artillery, losing in one fight at Spottsylvania 264 
men, and again more than 600 in stern obedience to 
orders which should not have been given in the first 
futile charge on the lines of Petersburg. 

New regiments of infantry also came in, neces- 
sarily assigned to duty at the front, — high hearts, 
brave spirits; some of them rushed into the field 
without instruction in arms or training in practice 

The Situation 23 

of endiirance, the fiber of their bodies for a time 
not equal to the sincerity of their resolution. But 
with the quickening of sharp demand and com- 
pelling need, spirit soon transformed body to its 
likeness, and meantime cheered and braced other 
hearts beating their old rhythm beneath the iron 
breasts of veterans. 

No jeering now for newness and niceness; but 
silent welcome, of respect and almost reverence, 
seeing that the young men had come willingly at 
such a time to such a front. The last two years had 
brought prismatic colors down to plain monotone. 
Names of things were charged with deeper defini- 
tions. War was no longer a holiday excursion; it 
was "hard-shelled" business; not maturing in three 
months, nor nine, nor twelve, nor twenty-four. 
And the way of it was more bitter than the end. 
The regiments passing to the front marched not 
between festoons of ladies' smiles and waving 
handkerchiefs, thrown kisses and banner presenta- 
tions. They were looked upon sadly and in a certain 
awe, as those that had taken on themselves a doom. 
The muster rolls on which the name and oath 
were written were pledges of honor, — ^redeemable 
at the gates of death. And they who went up to 
them, knowing this, are on the lists of heroes. 

It is true not all who came in now were strictly 
"volunteers." Some may have enlisted from 
shame of staying comfortably at home while manly 
men were at the front. Some may have preferred 
this to standing "draft" under terrors of the lot; 
for so the free will is sometimes bound. And others 

24 The Passing of the Armies 

may have been persuaded by the large local boun- 
ties, which the stern realities adverted to above 
induced many loud loyalists to offer to "substi- 
tutes," to whom life, liberty, and the pursuit of 
happiness were not quite so dear. Glory had come 
to exemplify the altruistic virtues, and in such 
honor as "dying for your country," self -regarding 
men scripturally "preferred one another"! 

But there were those coming last who represented 
the heroism of homes. For wives, who had early 
offered the fathers of their children, house-bonds of 
human well-being, as sacrifices for their country's 
redemption, sent now their sons, to share their 
father's honor and perchance his grave. Mothers, 
who had given their first-born, held not back their 
youngest now; the strongest first, and then the 
dearest. And the converse of this, the father fol- 
lowing the son. Well might the lip of veteran quiver 
as his quick eye, scanning a squad of newcomers, 
caught the figure of some father, gray and grim, 
still so erect and eagle-eyed, straining for every 
semblance of youth, that he might be permitted 
to stand beside his boy whom he could not let 
come alone. Nor is this sympathy unmarked in 
higher grades. What has come over the spirit of 
that stern officer, pushing his column with relent- 
less energy on the terrible forced march, that with 
furtive side-look as if half -ashamed, he draws the 
back of his sword-hand across his compressed eye- 
lids, like the swift sign of the cross over the face of 
a prayer? He has turned in his saddle to order the 
ambulance, or his own headquarters' wagon to 

The Situation 25 

pick up from the trodden wayside some fallen, 
fainting boy, overweighted by the heavy armor of 
his country's defense, whose soul has carried him 
already far beyond his body's strength. Some 
home-loved boy; and so soon, so nearly lost! God 
help us all! 

The exercise of thought that had been invited 
and sanctioned naturally fostered indulgence in 
some "free thinking." Some liberties were taken 
in canvassing the merits not only of commanders 
but rather more freely of campaigns, — particu- 
larly this reductio ad absurdum of the siege of 
Petersburg. And they would have been something 
less than rational human beings if they did not 
indulge in some criticisms. Too free expression of 
unfavorable opinion, it is true, might render one 
liable to the counter charge of conduct to "the 
prejudice of good order and military discipline." 
But wisdom was also brought to use. Our soldiers 
had well learned the lesson that it is sometimes 
necessary to reverse the maxim of public law, and 
subordinate civil rights to military rules. 

Evil-minded people were trying to make our 
men believe that Grant and Lincoln were making 
this long delay in front of Petersburg in order to 
secure their continuance in office. But this was 
an outrage upon those noble characters, and an 
insult to the common sense of every man among us. 
We knew that the surest way for our high officials 
to hold their place was by no means to court delay, 
but to strike a quick, bold blow at the enemy. 

Grant's change of base from the Rappahannock 

26 The Passing of the Armies 

to the James, and his immediate objective from 
the front of Richmond to its rear by way of Peters- 
burg, called for no adverse criticism. There were 
deep-felt reasons for acquiescence. Nor could it 
be fairly criticized on purely military grounds. 
Although technically a change of base, it was not a 
change in his grand purpose, — "to fight it out on 
this line if it takes all summer." That meant 
there was to be no retreating. And this might 
justly be considered a master stroke of grand tactics 
in the continuous movement to turn Lee's right, 
and also cut his communications. When we under- 
stood the purpose of this move we believed it to be 
good tactics, and we took it up with hope and 
cheer. Sober second thought justified the first 
impression. It was a well-planned and well-exe- 
cuted movement. Our army was skilfully with- 
drawn from the front of a watchful and active 
enemy, and the main body of our army was before 
Petersburg before Lee knew it had crossed the 
James. The first blow was well delivered; but a 
series of shortcomings, for which it must be said 
neither the men nor their immediate commanders 
were responsible, brought all to nought. Succes- 
sive assaults on the enemy's lines were made as 
corps after corps extended leftward; but gallant 
fighting left Httle to show but its cost. Especially 
did we hold in mind the last of these made by the 
Fifth Corps on the second day, when an assault 
was ordered, by my fine veteran Brigade on the 
strong entrenchments at Rives' Salient command- 
ing the important avenue of communication, the 

The Situation 2^ 

Norfolk Railroad and Jerusalem Plank Road. 
By this time it was too late; all Lee's army were 
up and entrenched. We encountered a far out- 
numbering force of veteran troops well entrenched 
and a cross-fire of twenty guns in earthworks 
planted with forethought and skill. Desperate 
valor could accomplish nothing but its own demon- 
stration. Our veterans were hurled back over the 
stricken field, or left upon it — I, too, proud witness 
and sharer of their fate. I am not of Virginia 
blood; she is of mine. So ended the evening of 
the second day. And the army sat down to that 
ten months' symposium, from which twenty 
thousand men never rose. 

The development of this campaign led many to 
compare Grant with McClellan. They marched 
their armies over much the same ground, with 
much the same result. Only McClellan was 
brought to Washington; Grant was permitted to 
remain at City Point and the Appomattox. The 
rumor ran that McClellan had also proposed to cut 
across the James and around Lee's flank. Many 
still believed in his soldiership, but broader ele- 
ments now entered into the estimate. Something 
in the nature of the man and something in his 
environment caused his failure. With great or- 
ganizing power, he failed in practical application. 
The realities of war seemed to daze him. He 
lacked dash, resolution; he hesitated to seize the 
golden moment, to profit by his own openings, to 
press his advantage, to solve doubt by daring. 
With all that marvelous magnetism which won the 

28 The Passing of the Armies 

love and enthusiasm of his subordinates, he lacked 
the skill, or the will, to gain the sympathy of his 
superiors. It is as much the requisite in general- 
ship to secure the confidence and co-operation of 
the Government as to command armies and over 
come opposing force. It was unfortunate for him, 
also, that he allowed himself to be drawn into 
politics, which paid him in its own kind. The fore- 
shadowing thought of this created in his mind a 
"double objective," which confused his purpose 
and benumbed his fighting energy as against 
possible fellow citizens. 

But many circumstances were against him. 
Few seemed to realize that this was war. And 
many who influenced his surroundings thought 
they knew as much of war as he. At that time the 
North was in a craze; nobody would accept the 
suggestion that it would be a long and costly task 
to put down the rebellion, or even to break up the 
Southern army. The North was as arbitrary as 
the South was arrogant. Strong in its conviction 
of right, proud of its sponsorship for the old flag; 
stung, too, by the sharp rebuff to its assumption 
and its authority, the North did not count patience 
as the chief of virtues. Its cry was "On to Rich- 
mond!" to capture the rebel capital so impudently 
set up in face of our own, and thus wipe out that 
pretended token of independence and sovereignty 
which gave pretext for foreign recognition. For 
this had become an element in the contest, — the 
hostility of the French Emperor, and the "nobility " 
of England with difficulty held back from recogniz- 

The Situation 29 

ing the Southern Confederacy through the moral 
courage of John Bright and the royal wisdom of the 
Queen and Prince Consort of England. 

The impatience of the North is perhaps to be 
pardoned for the reason of its impelling motive; 
but it demanded of General McClellan impossibili- 
ties. And these were created quite as much by 
forces in his rear as by those in his front. 

As for Grant, he was like Thor, the hammerer; 
striking blow after blow, intent on his purpose to 
beat his way through, somewhat reckless of the 
cost. Yet he was the first one of our commanders 
who dared to pursue his policy of delay without 
apology or fear of overruling. He made it a con- 
dition of his acceptancy of the chief command that 
he should not be interfered with from Washington. 
That gave him more freedom and "discretion" 
than any of his predecessors. He had somehow, 
with all his modesty, the rare faculty of controlling 
his superiors as well as his subordinates. He out- 
faced Stanton, captivated the President, and even 
compelled acquiescence or silence from that dread 
source of paralyzing power, — the Congressional 
Committee on the conduct of the war. 

The Government and the country had to exer- 
cise patience, — with us no doubt, and even with 
General Grant. He had to exercise it also, with 
himself. It must have been a sore trial to his 
pride, and a measure very foreign to his tempera- 
ment to have to sit down so long before Petersburg ; 
to abandon the tactics of main force and commence 
a series of sporadic harassment s on the enemy's 

30 The Passing of the Armies 

weak spots, and adopt for his main strategic plan 
the attempt to tire and starve him out. That was 
what things looked like now. There was all the 
while the ever increasing risk that, with this seeming 
long irresolution, influences from within might 
induce the country to concession and compromise 
at cost of the vital point of the whole contention, 
the supremacy of its proclaimed ideal, — the guar- 
anty of human rights. 

We all had to learn the bitter but salutary lesson, 
taught by adversity and humiliation, — that instant 
advantage is not always lasting achievement; that 
mere good intentions will not win victories, and 
that the conditions and cost of undertakings 
must be considered and prepared for body and 
spirit. We had the discipline of adversity. We 
found patience an active force and not merely an 
endurance of suffering. The brave Saint Paul 
declares that "tribulation worketh patience; and 
patience experience ; and experience hope. ' ' But we 
found things turned a little otherwise; experience 
demanded patience, and both sorely tried hope. 
Those who believe there is a divine appointment or 
mysterious overruling purpose in the prolonged 
struggles of human history might see in these 
repeated reverses of ours an intimation that greater 
things were in issue here than the taking of Peters- 
burg or Richmond, or the destruction of Lee's 
army, or even the quick overthrow of the rebel- 
lion. Should our success come according to our 
hopes there might be danger of too ready a com- 
promise with the forces that had brought on the 

The Situation 31 

war, and so the winnowings of life and death 
must go on till the troubles be sifted to the 
core. Lincoln's proclamation, though looked 
upon by our old-school officers as unadvised 
and unwarranted by the Constitution, had sent 
thoughts wider and higher than the range of 
army regulations or text -books of the law. It 
was a time of travail with the new birth of the 
nation. Time and tide wait for no man ; but man 
must wait for them. 

With all Grant's reticence, we felt sure that he 
was preparing some great movement, and this 
must be still to the left, to cut Lee's communica- 
tions and envelop his existing lines, or as the 
wiseacres said, to take Richmond in something 
like Joshua's way with Jericho, — sounding trum- 
pets all around its walls. We had, indeed, been 
rehearsing for this performance from time to time 
all winter, and had already cut several of Lee's 
best communications. Our established line now 
extended some sixteen miles. Occasional dashes 
had broken in upon them for some four or five 
miles farther westward, to near Burgess' Mill on 
Hatcher's Run, at the junction of the Boydton 
Plank Road and the White Oak Road; but these 
points could not be strongly held by us, and were 
more strongly guarded by the enemy, as almost 
their last avenue of sea-coast communication. Lee 
had two railroads: the Richmond and Danville, 
leading to important connections in North Caro- 
lina ; and the Petersburg and Lynchburg, known to 
us as the "Southside," making a junction with the 

32 The Passin<j^ of the Armies 

former at Burkeville, about fifty miles from Peters- 
btirg, as also from Richmond. 

On our part, as we gained ground we had un- 
rolled a military railroad, up hill and down, with- 
out much grading, and hence exhibiting some 
remarkable exploits in momentum of mind and 
machinery. This terminated at the Vaughan Road 
on the north branch of Rowanty Creek. 

Meantime Sherman had made his masterly 
march from the Great River to the Sea, and the 
even more masterly movement north to Goulds- 
boro. North Carolina, where with his alert and 
dashing army he threatened Lee's sea communica- 
tion and also the flank and rear of his position. It 
was a curious element in the situation that the 
astute Confederate General "Joe Johnston" should 
come in north of Sherman and interpose his army 
between Sherman's and ours. This sort of ''vol- 
taic pile" generated some queer currents of 
conjecture and apprehension. Disquieting riunors 
came across the picket lines that Johnston was 
coming up to strike our flank and rear, and thus 
between his army and Lee's we should be caught 
in the jaws of a leviathan. But we believed 
Sherman would give Johnston something else to do. 
We were more troubled by the rumor that Lee, 
presuming on our inertness, was preparing to make 
a master movement; to occupy our attention by 
feints in front while he should withdraw his main 
army, pass around our left and join Johnston, 
knock Sherman out, then turn back and attend to 
the "sick lion" of the Army of the Potomac. 

The Situation 33 

Grant was evidently anxious lest Lee should 
manage to get away from our front and effect a 
junction with Johnston for some bold stroke. 
That would be a shame for us. We would far 
rather fight, even if unsuccessful as usual. Then 
we were much annoyed by rumors coming around 
from Washington, that Sherman was coming up 
with his power and prestige to take our business 
out of our hands and the glory of success to his 
army. But in the depth of our doubts and appre- 
hension word came that Grant had brought Sher- 
man to a conference at his headquarters, and had 
invited Sheridan as a participant, on the evening of 
March 27th, and we knew now that something was 
to be done on a grand scale. 

Soon came the thrilling General Order. It 
announced one more leftward movement, but it 
woke new courage and inspired confidence. Its 
very style and manner was new. It seemed to 
take us all into confidential relations with the 
commander; the whole object and plan set forth 
in a manner clear, circumstantial, and complete, 
so that each subordinate knew the part he was 
expected to take. The colonels, on whom the 
brunt of battle so heavily falls, felt that they were 
appreciated, and they were quickened in soldierly 
pride and manly resolution. And the younger 
generals, who had become veterans in experience, 
especially in the practical working of the felicitous 
provision in the Army Regulations that, while their 
proper position is habitually a hundred and fifty 
yards in rear of the center of their commands, they 

34 The Passing of the Armies 

may, nevertheless, in time of action, "go to any 
place where they deem their presence necessary," 
and had found that was anywhere but in the rear, 
took new assurance now that permission was 
expressly given that when they got the enemy 
to "going" they might "push things" at their 

So when on the last evening of the old dispensa- 
tion we prepared to break camp before the dawn, 
silently and unseen, without blast of bugle or 
blow of axe, or sight of fire to betray unusual move- 
ments to the ever watchful foe so near, and each 
one who could dashed off his little farewell message 
home, there was in his heart a strange mingling of 
emotion, the vision of a great joy, in which, per- 
haps, he was to lie silent and apart, a little shadow 
on the earth, but overhead a great light filling the 
sky. This lifted him to the surpassing joy that, 
however it should be with him, his work and worth 
had entered into the country's life and honor. 

Now the solemn notes of the last tattoo rang 
"Lights out!" through the deepening shades, 
echoed from point to point of wooded hill and 
earth-piled parapet, floating away northward over 
the awful powers lying hushed beneath the twi- 
light semblance of peace, — northward, toward the 
homes our hearts reached after, the lingering echoes 
sweeping the heartstrings as they died away. But 
the same heart told that the evening bugle would 
not sound "Lights out!" again till the nights of 
the tremendous tragedy were over ; that whatever 
of him or his should be of the returning, never 

The Situation 35 

would retiirn that awful, long repeated scene : two 
armies, battered, broken, blood-bathed from brow 
to foot, but still face to face in unconquerable re- 
solve. No, but in the far sky another vision: calm 
in triumph, thinking not of mastery over man, but 
of right for all; and in God's heaven the old flag 
redeemed from shame and scorn, standing for a re- 
generated people and a new covenant of brotherly 
love for the world's hereafter. 



GRANT'S general plan involved an alterna- 
tive : to cut Lee's communications or turn 
the right flank of his entrenched line, and 
in case of the success of either, to take Petersburg 
by direct front attack. To carry out this plan he 
appointed Sheridan with the cavalry of the Army 
of the Shenandoah, two divisions, under General 
Merritt, and the cavalry division now commanded 
by General Crook, formerly belonging to the 
Army of the Potomac. He was to have the 
Fifth Corps as infantry support, to be followed, if 
necessary, by the Second Corps. General Meade, 
commanding the Army of the Potomac, was to 
accompany the movement. The former places 
of these corps on the left of our entrenchments 
before Petersburg, were to be taken by troops of 
the Army of the James. On the right of these, our 
Sixth and Ninth Corps were to hold their old posi- 
tions in front of Petersbtu-g, ready to break through 
the enemy's works if they should be stripped some- 
what of troops by the necessity of meeting our 
assault on their right. 


The Overture 37 

The scope of Grant's intentions may be under- 
stood from an extract from his orders to Sheridan, 
March 28, 1865: 

The Fifth Army Corps will move by the Vaughan 
Road at three a.m. to-morrow morning. The Second 
moves at about nine a.m. . . . Move your cavalry at as 
early an hour as you can, . . . and passing to or through 
Dinwiddle, reach the right and rear of the enemy as soon 
as you can. It is not the intention to attack the enemy 
in his entrenched position, but to force him out, if possible. 
Should he come out and attack us, or get himself where he 
can be attacked, move in with your entire force in your 
own way, and with full reliance that the army will engage 
or follow the enemy as circumstances will dictate. I shall 
be on the field, and will probably be able to communicate 
with you. Should I not do so, and you find that the ene- 
my keeps within his main entrenched line, you may cut loose 
and push for the Danville Road. If you find it practicable, 
I would like you to cross the Southside Road between 
Petersburg and Burkesville, and destroy it to some ex- 
tent. . . . After having accomplished the destruction of 
the two railroads, which are now the only avenues of sup- 
ply to Lee's army, you may return to this army or go on 
into North Carolina and join General Sherman. . . . 

General Grant evidently intended to rely more 
on tactics than strategy in this opening. In his 
personal letter to General Sherman, of March 226., 
giving the details of his plans for Sheridan's move- 
ment, he adds: "I shall start out with no distinct 
view, further than holding Lee's forces from follow- 
ing Sheridan. But I shall be along myself, and 
will take advantage of anything that turns up. " 

The general plan was that Sherman should work 

3^ The Passing of the Armies 

his way up to Burkesville, and thus cut off Lee's 
communications, and force him to come out of his 
entrenchments and fight on equal terms. Sher- 
man says he and General Grant expected that one 
of them would have to fight one more bloody battle. 
He also makes the characteristic remark that his 
army at Goldsboro was strong enough to fight Lee's 
army and Johnston's combined, if Grant would 
come up within a day or two.' 

It will be observed that we had abundance of 
commanders independent among each other, — 
Sheridan, Meade, and Ord commanding the Army 
of the James, subordinate only to Grant who was 
present in the field. The result of this the sequel 
will show. 

We were all good friends, — those who were to 
constitute the turning column. Warren of our 
Fifth Corps had once commanded the Second; 
Humphreys of the Second had formerly com- 
manded a division in the Fifth; Miles, division 
commander in the Second, had won his spurs in the 
Fifth; Meade, commanding the army, had been 
corps commander of the Fifth. Crook's cavalry 
division of our army, now about to go to Sheridan, 
had been our pet and pride ; Sheridan was an object 
of admiration and awe. 

' Sherman's Memoirs, vol. ii., p. 325, This seems to imply a reflection 
on the fighting qualities of the Army of the Potomac, as at that time 
Sherman's army did not exceed in number the Army of the Potomac 
but by six thousand men. But it must be remembered that the Army 
of the Potomac confronted an enemy covered by entrenched works for 
sixteen miles, — a circumstance which gave the Confederates the great 
advantage of three to one in effective numbers. 











/■ \U" 




5'1* 6'; MANMBOBOy 

yp.. 6^ 



" ■■ SECOND COflPS p-' 

FirTH " P 

siy.TH .. P 

NINTH •■ fS 



FIFTH '■ ^- 















The Overture 39 

Of the Fifth Corps, the division commanders of 
the First and Second were Griffin and Ayres of the 
regular artillery, and veterans of the Mexican War, 
who had served with their batteries in the Fifth 
Corps early in its career; and Crawford of the 
Third, who was with Anderson at Fort Sumter, was 
identified with the Pennsylvania Reserves, whose 
whole history was closely connected with this 

As for the First Division, the morning report 
for March 29, 1865, showed 6547 men present for 
duty. This number being on various duty else- 
where or sick in hospital was 4000 short of its full 
ranks. The remnants of the old First Division 
had been consolidated into the Third Brigade, 
formerly my own, consisting of about 3000 men, 
commanded by the able General Joseph J. Bartlett 
of the Sixth Corps. The Second Brigade, about 
1750, commanded by the experienced and con- 
scientious Colonel Edgar M. Gregory, of the 91st 
Pennsylvania Volunteers, Brevet Brigadier- General 
of Volunteers, consisted of three new regiments 
from New York, the 187th, the i88th, and 189th, 
new regiments but mostly old soldiers. My own 
brigade, the First, consisting of like new regiments, 
had about 450 short of its normal numbers, mus- 
tering 1750 men for duty. These regiments were 
the 198th Pennsylvania, composed of fourteen full 
companies, being a special command for a veteran 
and brave officer, Colonel Horatio G. Sickel, Brevet 
Brigadier-General, and the 185th New York, a 
noble body of men of high capability and character, 

40 The Passing^ of the Armies 

and a well-disciplined regiment now commanded by 
Colonel Gustave Sniper, an able man and thorough 

Gregory and Sickel had both ranked me formerly 
as Colonels, but accepted the new relations with 
sincerity and utmost courtesy. 

The ground about to be traversed by us is flat 
and swampy, and cut up by sluggish streams which, 
after every rain, become nearly impassable. The 
soil is a mixture of clay and sand, quite apt in wet 
weather to take the character of sticky mire or of 
quicksands. The principal roads for heavy travel 
have to be corduroyed or overlaid with plank. The 
streams for the most part find their way south- 
easterly into the tributaries of the Chowan River. 
Some, however, flow northeasterly into the waters 
of the Appomattox. Our available route was along 
the divide of these waters. 

The principal road leading out westerly from 
Petersburg is the Boydton Plank Road, for the 
first ten miles nearly parallel with the Appomattox, 
and distant from it from three to six miles. The 
Southside Railroad is between the Boydton Road 
and the river. South of the Boydton is the 
Vaughan Road; the first section lying in rear of 
our main entrenchments, but from our extreme left 
at Hatcher's Run inclining towards the Boydton 
Road, being only two miles distant from it at 
Dinwiddle Court House. Five miles east of this 
place the Quaker Road, called by persons of 
another mood, the "Military Road," crosses the 
Vaughan and leads northerly into the Boydton 

The Overture 41 

Road midway between Hatcher's Run and Gravel- 
ly Run, which at this junction became Rowanty 

A mile above the intersection of the Quaker Road 
with the Boydton is the White Oak Road, leading 
off from the Boydton at right angles westerly, 
following the ridges between the small streams and 
branches forming the headwaters of Hatcher's 
and Gravelly Runs, through and beyond the 
"Five Forks." This is a meeting-place of roads, 
the principal of which, called the Ford Road, 
crosses the White Oak at a right angle, leading 
from a station on the Southside Railroad, three 
miles north, to Dinwiddle Court House, six miles 

The enemy's main line of entrenchments west 
from Petersburg covered the important Boydton 
Plank Road, but only so far as Hatcher's Run, 
where at Burgess' Mill their entrenchments leave 
this and follow the White Oak Road for some two 
miles, and then cross it, turning to the north and 
following the Claiborne Road, which leads to 
Sutherland's Station on the Southside Railroad ten 
miles distant from Petersburg, covering this road 
till it strikes Hatcher's Run about a mile higher up. 
This "return" northerly form.s the extreme right 
of the enemy's entrenched line. 

When the instructions for this campaign reached 
us, all were animated with confidence of quick 
success. If Lee's lines before Petersburg were 
held in place, it would be easy work to cut his com- 
munications, turn his right, and roll him back upon 

42 The Passing of the Armies 

Petersburg or Richmond; if, on the other hand, his 
main lines were stripped to resist our attack, our 
comrades in the old lines would make short work 
of Lee's entrenchments and his army. 

At daylight on the twenty-ninth of March the 
Fifth Corps moved out toward the enemy's right. 
As the movement was intended to mask its desti- 
nation by a considerable detour to the rear, our 
column first moved southward to Arthur's Swamp, 
crossing the Rowanty at Monk's Bridge, and thence 
by way of the Old Stage Road into and down the 
Vaughan. My brigade, being the advance of the 
First Division, reached the Chappie House, about 
two miles from Dinwiddle, early in the forenoon, 
encountering only a few cavalry pickets. Sheridan 
with the cavalry, moving by a still exterior route, 
was pushing on towards Dinwiddle Court House. 

At about noon General Griffin directed me to 
return upon the Vaughan Road to the junction of 
the Quaker Road, and push up this road to develop 
the enemy's position in that quarter. This direc- 
tion we knew led towards the very strong salient of 
the enemy's works near Burgess' Mill on Hatcher's 
Run: but we did not know where, nor with what 
force, Lee might see fit to push out a counter 
movement to thwart ours. We soon found this 
road better entitled to its military than its Quaker 
appellation. A spirited advanced line of the 
enemy had destroyed the bridge over Gravelly 
Run and were posted behind some defenses on the 
north bank intending to give serious check to our 
advance. Evidently there was something nearby 

The Overture 43 

which they deemed it important to cover; and 
which accordingly we felt an interest to uncover. 
I formed a plan which I communicated to General 
Griffin, who approved it and directed General 
Gregory to support me on the left as I should 
instruct him, and also directed General Bartlett 
to be ready to take part as circumstances should 
require. Things being thus arranged, I placed 
General Sickel with eight companies on the right 
below the ruined bridge, with instructions to pour 
a hot fire upon the enemy opposite when with the 
rest of the brigade I would ford the stream waist- 
deep above the bridge and strike the enemy's 
right flank obliquely. This led to a hand-to-hand 
encounter. The attack was impetuous; the mus- 
ketry hot. Major Glenn with his six companies in 
skirmishing order dashed through the stream and 
struck the enemy's breastworks front and flank. 
In a moment everything started loose. The entire 
brigade forded the stream and rolled forward, 
closing upon Glenn right and left, and the whole 
command swept onward like a wave, carrying all 
before it a mile or more up the road, to the build- 
ings of the Lewis Farm. The enemy now re-en- 
forced made a decided stand, and the fight became 
sharp. But our enveloping line pressed them so 
severely that they fell back after each struggle to 
the edge of a thick wood, where a large body had 
gathered behind a substantial breastwork of logs 
and earth. 

A withering volley breaks our line into groups. 
Courage and resolution are great, but some other 

44 The Passing of the Armies 

sentiment mightier for the moment controls our 
men; a backward movement begins, but the men 
retire slowly, bearing their wounded with them, and 
even some of their dead. The enemy, seeing this 
recoil, pour out of their shelter and make a dash 
upon our broken groups, but only to be dashed 
back in turn hand to hand in eddying whirls. 
And seized by our desperate fellows, so many are 
dragged along as prisoners in the receding tide 
that it is not easy to tell which side is the win- 
ning one. Much of the enemy's aim is imsteady, 
for the flame and murk of their thickening fire 
in the heavy moist air are blown back into their 
eyes by the freshening south wind. But reinforce- 
ments are coming in, deepening and broadening 
their line beyond both our flanks. Now roar and 
tumult of motion for a fierce pulse of time, then 
again a quivering halt. At length one vigorous 
dash drives the assailants into the woods again with 
heavy loss. We had cleared the field, and thought 
it best to be content with that for the present. 
We reform our lines each side the buildings of the 
Lewis Farm, and take account of the situation. 
We had about a hundred prisoners from Wise's 
and Wallace's Brigades, who said nearly all Ander- 
son's Division were with them, and that more were 
coming, and they were bound to hold this outpost 
covering the junction of two roads which are main 
arteries of their vital hold, — the White Oak and 
the Boydton Plank. 

We found General Griflin there, and were re- 
lieved to see that he did not find fault with us, 

The Overture 45 

although we had not done all that we expected — 
perhaps not all that was expected of us. We had 
been repulsed, no doubt. But there was more to 
be done. I wondered why Gregory had not 
attacked on the enemy's right flank when they 
were driving us back, but found he had difficulty 
with the streams, which were almost impassable. 

But our work was still before us. I saw that 
General Griffin was anxious to carry the enemy's 
position, and I as anxiously formed a new line for 
the assault. So we were in for it again and almost 
in cavalry fashion. Giving the right of the line 
to General Sickel and the left to Colonel Sniper on 
each side the road, I took Major Glenn with his 
six companies for a straight dash up the Quaker 
Road, our objective point being a heap of saw- 
dust where a portable mill had stood, now the 
center of the enemy's strong advanced line. We 
received a hot fire which we did not halt to return 
as that would expose us to heavy loss, but advanced 
at the double quick to go over the enemy's works 
with the bayonet. At close quarters the sharp- 
shooters in the tree-tops cut us up badly, but we 
still pressed on, only now and then, here and there, 
delivering fire ourselves. In the full crescendo of 
this, now close to the sawdust pile, my horse, wild 
for the front, all his pulses aglow, was exceeding the 
possible pace of the men following and I gave him 
a vigorous check on the curb. Resenting this, he 
touched his fore feet to earth only to rebound head- 
high to the level of my face. Just at that instant 
a heavy blow struck me on the left breast just below 

46 The Passing of the Armies 

the heart. I fell forward on my horse's neck and 
lost all consciousness. The bullet at close range 
had been aimed at my breast, but the horse had 
lifted his head just in time to catch it, so that, 
passing through the big muscle of his neck (and 
also I may say through a leather case of field 
orders and a brass-mounted hand-mirror in my 
breast-pocket — we didn't carry towels in this 
campaign) , demolished the pistol in the belt of my 
aide Lieutenant Vogel, and knocked him out of the 
saddle. This, of course, I only knew afterwards. 
The shock had stopped my horse, and I must have 
been for some little time unconscious. The first 
thing I knew an arm was around my waist and words 
murmured in my ear, "My dear General, you are 
gone, " the kindly voice of General Griffin who had 
ridden up beside me. At that moment also a very 
different strain struck my ear on the other hand, — 
a wild rebel yell. As I lifted my head a glance 
showed me the right of our line broken and flying 
before the enemy like leaves before the wind. This 
explains my answer to Griffin, "Yes, General, I 
am," — that is, "gone" in another sense. 

The bullet had riddled my sleeve to the elbow 
and bruised and battered my bridle arm so that it 
was useless, and the obstructions it met had 
slightly deflected it so that, instead of striking the 
point of my heart, it had followed around two ribs 
so as to come out at the back seam of my coat. 
The horse was bleeding profusely and my falling on 
his neck brought a blood relationship of which I was 
not ashamed. Everybody around thought I was 

The Overture 47 

"gone" indeed, and that is why a telegram went 
to the New York morning papers reporting me as 
killed. In the shock my cap had fallen to the 
ground, and I must have been a queer spectacle as 
I rose in the saddle tattered and battered, bare- 
headed and blood-smeared. I swimg the rein 
against my horse's wounded neck and lightly 
touching his flank with my heel, we made a dash 
for the rally of our right. Pushing in among our 
broken ranks or our 198th Pennsylvania, the men 
might well have thought me a messenger from the 
other world. That rally was sharp work — and 
costly. Down at the extreme right, in the mad- 
dened whirl, I found the brave Sickel, his face 
aflame, rallying his men with an appeal none could 
resist. In a moment after he fell by my side with a 
shattered arm. With him was that heroic boy Major 
McEuen who high above all thought of self was 
dashing into the seething crest of battle and was 
shot from his saddle within touch of my unavailing 
hand; so passed a noble spirit, a sweet soul, 
only son of his proud father and last of his race on 
earth. By such appeal and offering this gallant 
regiment, forced back by overpowering onset, 
straightened up into line again, and with a thrilling, 
almost appalling cheer, turned the tide of battle, 
and rolled it fairly back inside the enemy's works. 
Aware of some confusion near the sawdust pile 
I thought it fitting to return to my place at the 
center. I was astonished at the greeting of cheers 
which marked my course. Strangest of all was 
that when I emerged to the sight of the enemy, 

48 The Passing of the Armies 

they also took up the cheering. I hardly knew 
what world I was in. 

By the time I got back to the center the loss of 
blood had exhausted the strength of my horse, and 
his nose came to earth. I had to send him back 
and become a foot soldier. It was a critical time 
there, with much confusion. Glenn was having 
a hard time at the sawdust pile, and I worked 
myself forward in the crowd to get at the state of 
things in front. By a sudden backset I found my- 
self surrounded by Confederates, who courteously 
lowered their muskets and locked their bayonets 
around me to indicate a reception not easily to be 
declined, and probably to last some time. The 
old coat was dingy almost to gray; I was bare- 
headed, and rather a doubtful character anyway. 
I thought it warrantable to assume an extremely 
friendly relation. To their exhortation I replied: 
"Surrender? What's the matter with you? What 
do you take me for? Don't you see these Yanks 
right onto us? Come along with me and let us 
break 'em. " I still had my right arm and my light 
sword, and I gave a slight flourish indicating my 
wish and their direction. They did follow me like 
brave fellows, — most of them too far; for they 
were a long time getting back. 

There was a little lull shortly afterwards, but 
quite a curious crowd around the sawdust pile. 
Colonel Spear of my old 20th Maine, who charged 
himself with a certain care for me, came up now 
and with a mysterious and impressive look, as if 
about to present a brevet commission, drew from 

The Overture 49 

his breast-pocket an implement or utensil some- 
what resembling a flask, which he confidentially 
assured me contained some very choice wine, of 
which he invited me to take a swallow. Now that 
word is a very indeterminate and flighty term. As 
I took the instrument in hand, I perceived it to be 
a Jamaica-ginger bottle frugally indented on all 
sides. I elevated it at the proper angle of inci- 
dence without, perhaps, sufficiently observing that 
of reflection; but I thought masonic courtesy would 
be observed if I stopped when the bubble indicated 
* ' spirit-level. ' ' I returned the equitable remainder 
to him with commendation and grateful thanks. 
But the melancholy, martyr-like look on his face 
as he held it up to the light, revealed his inward 
thought that in appropriating his courtesy I had 
availed myself to the extreme of my privilege. 
My friend in later years seeks to get even with me 
by recalling this story on festive occasions for the 
entertainment of friends. I do not like to admit 
the charge against myself, but have no hesitation 
in entering the plea on behalf of my accessory, 
the bottle, of extremely extenuating circumstances. 
I was glad the Colonel was not on my staff then, 
and I did not have to meet him at evening. 

We were soon parted. A hoarse yell rose 
through the tumult on the left, where the impetu- 
ous Sniper had tried to carry the breastworks in 
the woods, and now, badly cut up, his regiment was 
slowly falling back, closely followed by the enemy 
pouring out from their works. They were soon 
pressed back to a line perpendicular to their proper 

50 The Passing of the Armies 

front, and the flight was fierce. Meantime, I 
scarcely know how, nor by whom helped, I found 
myself mounted on the back of a strange, dull- 
looking white horse, that had been bespattered by 
the trodden earth, and as I rode down among my 
fine New Yorkers, I must have looked more than 
ever like a figure from the Apocalypse. 

There I found the calm, cold-steel face of Sniper, 
who had snatched his regimental colors from the 
dead hands of the third color-bearer that had gone 
down under them in the last half -hour, and was 
still holding his shattered ranks facing the storm; 
himself tossing on the crest of every wave, rolling 
and rocking like a ship laying to in the teeth of a 
gale. I dispatched a staff-oflicer for Gregory to 
attack where I supposed him to be, in position to 
enfilade the enemy's newly gained alignment. In 
response up rode Griffin, anxious and pale, his 
voice ringing with a strange tone, as of mingled 
command and entreaty: "If you can hold on 
there ten minutes, I will give you a battery." 
That was a great tonic: Griffin's confidence and 
his guns. There was quite an eminence a little 
to our rear, behind which I was intending to 
re-form my line should it be driven from the field. 
I changed my plan. Pushing through to Sniper, 
I shouted in his ear in a voice the men should hear: 
' ' Once more ! Try the steel ! Hell for ten minutes 
and we are out of it!" 

I had no idea we could carry the woods, or hold 
them if we did. My real objective was that knoll in 
the rear. I wanted to keep the enemy from pressing 

The Overture 51 

over it before we could get our guns up. A 
desperate resort was necessary. 

While a spirit as it were superhuman took pos- 
session of minds and bodies; energies of will, 
contradicting all laws of dynamics, reversed the di- 
rection of the surging wave, and dashed it back 
upon the woods and breastworks within them. 
Having the enemy now on the defensive, I took oc- 
casion to let Sniper know my purpose and plan, and 
to instruct his men accordingly: to demoralize the 
enemy by a smashing artillery fire, and then charge 
the woods by similar bolt-like blast of men. They 
took this in with calm intelligence, and braced 
assent. I knew they would do all possible to man. 
All the while I was straining eyes and prayers for a 
sight of the guns. And now they come — B of the 
4th Regulars, Mitchell leading with headlong 
speed, horses smoking, battery thundering with 
jolt and rattle, wheeling into action front, on the 
hillock I had been saving for them, while the earth 
flew beneath the wheels, — magnificent, the shining, 
terrible Napoleons. I rode out to meet them, 
pointing out the ground. Mitchell's answering 
look had a mixed expression, suggestive of a smile. 
I did not see anything in the situation to smile at, 
but he evidently did. I should have remembered 
my remarkable personal appearance. He did not 
smile long. The colloquy was short: "Mitchell, 
do you think you can put solid shot or percussion 
into those woods close over the rebels' heads, with- 
out hurting my men? " — "Yes, Sir ! if they will keep 
where they are." — "Well then, give it to them the 

52 The Passing of the Armies 

best you know. But stop quick at my signal, and 
fire clear of my men when they charge. " 

It was splendid and terrible: the swift-served, 
bellowing, leaping big guns; the thrashing of the 
solid shot into the woods; the flying splinters 
and branches and tree-tops coming down upon the 
astonished heads; shouts changing into shrieks at 
the savage work of these unaccustomed missiles; 
then answering back the burst of fire oblique upon 
the left front of the battery, where there was a 
desperate attempt to carry it by flank attack; 
repulsed by Sniper drawing to the left, and thus 
also leaving clear range for closer cutting projec- 
tiles, when now case shot and shell, now a blast of 
canister, poured into the swarming, swirling foe. 

My right wing was holding itself in the line of 
woods they had carried, reversing the breast- 
works there. The strain was on the left now. I 
was at the guns, where danger of disaster centered, 
so closely were they pressed upon at times. Mit- 
chell, bravely handling his imperilled battery, — I 
had just seen him mounting a gun-carriage as it 
recoiled, to observe the effect of its shot, — went 
down grievously wounded. It was thunder and 
lightning and earthquake; but it was necessary 
to hold things steady. Now, thank Heaven! 
comes up Griffin, anxious and troubled. I dare 
say I too looked something the worse for wear, for 
Griffin's first word was: "General, you must not 
leave us. We cannot spare you now." *T had 
no thought of it, General," was all I had to say. 
He brought up Colonel Doolittle (not named by a 

The Overture 53 

prophet, surely) with the 189th New York, from 
Gregory's Brigade, and Colonel Partridge (a 
trace of the bird of Jove on his wing), with the ist 
and 1 6th Michigan, to my support. These I 
placed on Sniper's right ; when up came that hand- 
some Zouave regiment, the 155th Pennsylvania, 
the gallant Pearson at their head, regimental colors 
in hand, expecting some forward work, sweeping so 
finely into line that I was proud to give them the cen- 
ter, joining on the heroic Glenn, holding there alone. 
It is soon over. Woods and works are cleared, 
and the enemy sent flying up the road towards their 
main entrenchments. The 185th New York is 
drawn back and placed in support of the battery, 
right and left. The 198th Pennsylvania is gathered 
on the right, in front of the farm buildings. 
Gregory takes the advanced line, and soon Bartlett 
comes up and presses up the road to near the junc- 
tion of the Boydton and White Oak, reminded of 
the enemy's neighborhood by a few cannon shots 
from their entrenchments near Burgess' Mill bridge- 
head. At about this time word comes that the 
Second Corps is on our right, not far away. By our 
action a lodgment had been effected which became 
the pivot of the series of undulations on the left, 
which after three days resulted in turning the 
right flank of Lee's army. We had been fighting 
Grade's, Ransom's, Wallace's, and Wise's Brigades, 
of Johnson's Division, under command of General 
R. H. Anderson, numbering, as by their last morn- 
ing reports, 6277 officers and men "effective" for 
the field. 

54 The Passing of the Armies 

My own brigade in this engagement numbered 
less than 1700 officers and men. Mitchell's 
battery and Gregory's and Bartlett's regiments 
assisting in the final advance added to this number 
probably 1000 more. Their total loss in this 
engagement was slight in numbers. The loss in 
my brigade was a quarter of those in line. 

My fight was over, but not my responsibilities. 
The day and the field are ours; but what a day, 
and what a field ! As for the day, behind the heavy 
brooding mists the shrouded sun was drawing down 
the veil which shrined it in the mausoleum of 
vanished but unforgotten years. And for the 
field: strown all over it were a hundred and fifty 
bodies of the enemy's dead, and many of the hun- 
dred and sixty-seven of my own men killed and 
wounded. Both my personal aides had been 
severely wounded, and every officer of my staff 
unhorsed. The casualties among officers were 
especially beyond the ratio in other battles. 
Captain Mitchell, commanding the battery, was 
lying behind it severely wounded. It may be 
proper to add that as he was serving away from his 
immediate superiors, I saw to it that his gallant 
and most effective service was faithfully reported, 
and fairly recognized by the Government. There 
was a sequel to this in the widowhood of after 
years. Sometimes we can do for others what we 
cannot do for ourselves. And this is the law of 
richest increase. 

With the declining day I slowly rode over the 
stricken field. Around the breastworks lay a 

The Overture 55 

hundred and fifty of the enemy's dead and desper- 
ately wounded. We had taken also in the counter- 
charges and eddies of the strife nearly two hundred 
prisoners — happier than they knew. These we 
sent away for safe-keeping. But we had with us, 
to keep and to care for, more than five hundred 
bruised bodies of men, — men made in the image 
of God, marred by the hand of man, and must 
we say in the name of God? And where is the 
reckoning for such things? And who is answer- 
able? One might almost shrink from the sound of 
his own voice, which had launched into the palpita- 
ting air words of order — do we call it? — fraught 
with such ruin. Was it God's command we heard, 
or His forgiveness we must forever implore? 

For myself, though hardly able to move erect 
for soreness and weakness, I was thankful to have 
come out holding together as well as I did. For 
one little circumstance, which, I suppose, has 
interest only for myself, I felt very grateful for the 
kindness, and possibly the favor, of General Griffin 
in so ordering my reinforcements as not to deprive 
me of the command of the field till my fight was 
over. In the exigency of the situation, instead of 
sending me four regiments from the other two 
brigades of the division, he might very properly 
have put in Bartlett, with his fine brigade, and that 
gallant officer would doubtless have carried all 
before him. But that noble sense of fairness, 
that delicate recognition of honorable sensibilities, 
in thoughtfully permitting, and even helping, a 
subordinate to fight his fight through, if he could, 

56 The Passing of the Armies 

and receive whatever credit might belong to it, 
shows not only the generous traits of General 
Griffin's character, but shows also how strange a 
bond it is to hold a body of soldiers together, each 
and each to all, when men can feel what they have 
wrought with the best that is in them is safe in 
the hands of their commander, whose power over 
the "ways of putting things" has so much effect 
to make or mar their reputation. Some command- 
ers more than others have commanded love. That 
too has reason. Justice is said to be an attribute 
of the divine: in our imperfect world, missing that, 
we count one thing noblest, — and that is soul. 

One other thing I may mention. General 
Warren, our Corps commander, came up to me 
with pleasant words. "General," he says, "you 
have done splendid work. I am telegraphing the 
President. You will hear from it." Not long 
afterwards I received from the Government a 
brevet commission of Major-General, given, as it 
stated, "for conspicuous gallantry in action on the 
Quaker Road, March 29, 1865. " I had previously 
received this brevet of the date of March 13th, pur- 
porting to be for meritorious services during that 
Virginia campaign. I begged permission to decline 
this and to accept the later one. 

First looking after the comfort of my wounded 
horse in one of the farmsheds, I walked out alone 
over the field to see how it was faring for the " unre- 
tiirning brave. " It was sunset beyond the clouds; 
with us the murky battle-smoke and thickening 
mists wrapped the earth, darklier shaded in many 

The Overture 57 

a spot no light should look on more. Burials 
were even now begun; searchings, questionings, 
reliefs, recognitions, greetings, and farewells; last 
messages tenderly taken from manly lips for 
breaking hearts ; insuppressible human moan ; fiick- 
erings of heart-held song ; vanishing prayer heaven- 
ward. But what could mortal do for mortal or 
human skill or sympathy avail for such deep need? 
I leaned over one and spoke to another as I passed, 
feeling how little now I could command. At 
length I kneeled above the sweet body of McEuen, 
where God's thought had folded its wing; and 
near by, where wrecks were thickly strewn, I came 
upon brave old Sickel lying calm and cheerful, 
with a shattered limb, and weakened by loss of 
blood while "fighting it through," but refusing to 
have more attention than came in his turn. Still 
pictured on my mind his splendid action where I 
had left him rallying his men, I sat down by him to 
give him such cheer as I could. He seemed to 
think I needed the comforting. The heroic flush 
was still on his face. "General," he whispers, 
smiling up, "you have the soul of the lion and the 
heart of the woman." "Take the benediction to 
yourself," was the reply; "you could not have 
thought that, if you had not been it." And that 
was our thought at parting for other trial, and 
through after years. For so it is : might and love, 
— they are the all; — fatherhood and motherhood 
of God himself, and of every godlike man. 

Still we are gathering up our wounded; first 
filling the bleak old Quaker meeting-house with 

58 The Passing of the Armies 

those reqmring instant attention and tenderest 
care, then giving our best for the many more, 
sheltering them as we could, or out under the 
brooding rain, where nature was sighing her own 
requiem, but even this grateful to some parched 
lip or throbbing wound. Still, after the descending 
night had wrapped the world in its softening shroud 
the burials were going on (for we had other things 
for the morrow), — strange figures on some far 
edge, weirdly illumined by the lurid lanterns hold- 
ing their light so close, yet magnifying every form 
and motion of the scene, all shadow-veiled and 
hooded like the procession of the "misericordia. " 
Seeking also the wounded of the enemy, led mostly 
by moans and supplications, — souls left so lonely, 
forlorn, and far away from all the caring; caring for 
these too, and partly for that very reason; gather- 
ing them out of the cold and rain when possible, — ■ 
for "blood is thicker than water," — we treated them 
as our own. "How far that little candle throws 
its beams!" Indeed, in the hour of sorrow and 
disaster do we not all belong to each other? At 
last, having done all possible, our much-enduring 
men lay down under the rain and darkness descend- 
ing so close, so stifling, so benumbing, — ^to sleep, 
to dream. 

For my own part, I was fain to seek a corner 
of the sorrow-laden Lewis house, sinking down 
drenched and torn in that dark, unwholesome, 
scarcely vital air, fitting companion of the weakest 
there. But first of all, drawing near a rude kitchen 
box, by the smouldering light of a sodden candle. 

The Overture 59 

steadying my nerves to compose a letter to dear, 
high-souled Doctor McEuen of Philadelphia, re- 
membering his last words commending to my care 
his only son, with the beseeching, almost conse- 
crating hands laid on my shoulder, — to tell him 
how, in the forefront of battle and in act of heroic 
devotion, his noble boy had been lifted to his like, 
and his own cherished hope merged with immortal 

Never to be forgotten, — that night of March 
twenty-ninth, on the Quaker Road. All night 
the dismal rain swept down the darkness, deep 
answering deep, soaking the fields and roads, and 
drenching the men stretched on the ground, sore 
with overstrain and wounds, — living, dead, and 
dying all shrouded in ghastly gloom. Before 
morning the roads were impassable for artillery and 
army-wagons, and nearly so for the ambulances, 
of our Corps and the Second, that crept up ghost- 
like through the shuddering mist. Under the 
spectral light of hovering lanterns hundreds of 
helpless patient sufferers were loaded in; to be 
taken from this scene of their manly valor, now so 
barren of all but human kindness, in long procession 
for the nearest hospital or railroad station, — and 
for what other station and what other greeting, 
what could they, or we, foreknow? 



WITH customary cognizance of our pur- 
poses and plans, Lee had on the 28th of 
March ordered General Fitzhugh Lee 
with his division of cavalry — about 1300 strong — 
from the extreme left of his lines near Hanover 
Court House, to the extreme right in the vicinity 
of Five Forks, this being four or five miles beyond 
Lee's entrenched right, at which point it was 
thought Sheridan would attempt to break up the 
Southside Railroad. Longstreet had admonished 
him that the next move would be on his communi- 
cations, urging him to put a sufficient force in the 
field to meet this. "Our greater danger," he said, 
"is from keeping too close within our trenches."^ 
Such despatch had Fitzhugh Lee made that on the 
evening of the twenty-ninth he had arrived at 
Sutherlands Station, within six miles of Five Forks, 
and about that distance from our fight that after- 
noon on the Quaker Road. On the morning of 
the 29th, Lee had also despatched General R. H. 
Anderson with Bushrod Johnson's Division — 

' Manassas to Appomattox, p. 588. 


The White Oak Road 6i 

Grade's, Ransom's, Wise's, and Wallace's Brigades 
— to reinforce his main entrenchments along the 
White Oak Road. It was these troops which we 
had encountered on the Quaker Road. Pickett's 
Division, consisting of the brigades of Stuart, Hun- 
ton, Corse, and Terry, about five thousand strong, 
was sent to the entrenchments along the Claiborne 
Road, and Roberts's Brigade of North Carolina 
cavalry, to picket the White Oak Road from the 
Claiborne, the right of their entrenchments, to 
Five Forks. 

On the thirtieth, the Fifth Corps, relieved by 
the Second, moved to the left along the Boydton 
Road, advancing its left towards the right of 
the enemy's entrenchments on the White Oak 
Road. Lee, also, apprehensive for his right, sent 
McGowan's South Carolina Brigade and McRae's 
North Carolina, of Hill's Corps, to strengthen 
Bushrod Johnson's Division in the entrench- 
ments there; but took two of Johnson's brigades — 
Ransom's and Wallace's — with three brigades of 
Pickett's Division (leaving Hunton's in the en- 
trenchments) , to go with Pickett to reinforce Fitz- 
hugh Lee at Five Forks. W. H. F. Lee's Division 
of cavalry, about one thousand five hundred men, 
and Rosser's, about one thousand, were also ordered 
to Five Forks. These reinforcements did not reach 
Five Forks until the evening of the thirtieth. 

The precise details of these orders and move- 
ments were, of course, not known to General 
Grant nor to any of his subordinates. But enough 
had been developed on the Quaker Road to lead 

62 The Passing of the Armies 

Grant to change materially his orginal purpose 
of making the destruction of the railroads the 
principal objective of Sheridan's movements. At 
the close of our fight there, Grant had despatched 
Sheridan: "Our line is now unbroken from Appo- 
mattox to Dinwiddie. I now feel like ending the 
matter, if possible, before going back. I do not 
want you, therefore, to cut loose and go after the 
enemy's roads at present. In the morning push 
around the enemy, if you can, and get on to his 
right rear. The movements of the enemy's cavalry 
may, of course, modify your action. We will act 
together as one army here, until it is seen what 
can be done with the enemy." Grant also tele- 
graphed President Lincoln: "General Griffin was 
attacked near vtrhere the Quaker Road intersects 
the Boydton, but repulsed it easily, capturing 
about 100 prisoners." But on the morning of the 
30th, he telegraphed the President again: 'T 
understand the number of dead left by the enemy 
yesterday for us to bury was much greater than 
our own dead. Our captures also were larger than 
reported. This morning all our troops have been 
pushed forward." For the morning of the 30th 
in spite of the sodden earth and miry roads, we 
managed to pull through to the Boydton Plank 
Road, which the Fifth Corps occupied as far as 
its crossing of Gravelly Run. Meantime, Hum- 
phreys with the Second Corps, advanced on the 
right of the road, and pressing the Confederate 
pickets behind their entrenchments, held his line 
close up to them. 

The White Oak Road 63 

The effect of this message to Sheridan reached 
to something more than a measure of tactics. It 
brought him at once to Grant. It will be borne in 
mind that he was not under the orders of Meade, 
but an independent commander, subject to Grant 
alone. His original orders contemplated his hand- 
ling his command as a flying column, independently 
of others — all the responsibility and all the glory 
being his own. The new instructions would bring 
him to act in conjunction with the Army of the 
Potomac, and render quite probable under army 
regulations and usages his coming under temporary 
command of General Meade, his senior in rank, — 
a position we do not find him in during this cam- 
paign. The logic of the new situation involved 
some interesting corollaries beyond the direct 
issue of arms. 

In that dismal night of March 29th on the 
Quaker Road Sheridan was holding long and close 
conference with Grant, having ridden up through 
the mud and rain immediately on receiving the 
message announcing the change of plan, to Grant's 
headquarters a little in rear of us on Gravelly 
Run. All that was known of this interview to 
those outside was that at the close of it, Sheridan 
was directed to gain possession of Five Forks early 
in the morning. We could not help feeling that 
he should have taken possession of this before. 
For all the afternoon and night of the 29th, there 
was nothing to oppose him there but the right wing 
of Roberts' slender brigade, picketing the White 
Oak Road. But when he received a positive order 

64 The Passing of the Armies 

to secure that point on the morning of the 30th, 
he seems to have moved so late and moderately 
that Fitzhugh Lee had time to march from Suther- 
land's Station to Five Forks, and thence half-way 
to Dinwiddle Court House to meet him; and even 
then, attacking with a single division, although 
this outnumbered the enemy by a thousand men,^ 
he permitted his demonstration on Five Forks to 
be turned into a reconnaissance half-way out," 
his advance being checked at the forks of the Ford 
and Boisseau Road, where it remained all night 
and until itself attacked the next morning.^ It 
is true that the roads and fields were heavy with 
rain; but this did not prevent our two infantry 
corps from moving forward and establishing them- 
selves in front of the White Oak Road, in face of 
considerable opposition; nor hinder Lee from zeal- 
ously strengthening the right of his lines and press- 
ing forward his reinforcements of infantry and 
cavalry to Fitzhugh Lee at Five Forks, where 
they arrived about sunset. What we cannot 
understand is why previous to that time General 
Sheridan, with thirteen thousand cavalry, had 
not found it practicable to make an effective de- 
monstration on Five Forks, covered all the morn- 
ing only by what few men Roberts had there 
picketing the White Oak Road, and after that 

' General Devin's Division numbered, according to returns of March 
30, 169 officers and 2830 men, present for duty. 

' General Merritt's despatch of March 30th. Rebellion Records, Serial 
97. P- 326. 

3 General Fitzhugh Lee's testimony. Warren Court Records, vol. i., 
p. 469. 

The White Oak Road 65 

time, all day, only by Fitzhugh Lee with eighteen 
hundred cavalry. 

Early on the morning of the 31st the Fifth 
Corps had all advanced northerly beyond the 
Boydton Road towards the enemy at the junction 
of the White Oak and Claiborne Roads: Ayres, 
with the Second Division, in advance, about six 
hundred yards from this junction; Crawford, with 
the Third Division, on Ayres' right rear in echelon 
with him, about six himdred yards distant; and 
Griffin, with the First Division, in position about 
thirteen hundred yards in rear of a prolongation of 
Crawford's line to the left, entirely out of sight 
of both, owing to woods and broken ground, but 
within what was thought to be supporting distance. 
This position was along the southeast bank of a 
swampy branch of Gravelly Run, half a mile north 
of the Boydton Road, and a mile and a half south 
of the White Oak Road. Miles* Division of the 
Second Corps had extended to the left on the 
Boydton Road to connect with Griffin. 

My command was the extreme left of our lines; 
my own brigade along the difficult branch of 
Gravelly Run, facing towards Ayres. Gregory, 
who had been directed by General Griffin to report 
to me for orders with his brigade for the rest of 
this campaign, was placed on the left, his line 
bent back at right angles along a country road 
leading from Boydton to the Claiborne Road. 
A portion of the artillery of the division was placed 
also in my lines to strengthen the defense of that 
flank, where we had reason to believe the enemy, 

66 The Passing of the Armies 

after their old fashion, were very Hkely to make a 
dash upon our left while we were manoeuvring to 
turn their right. 

General Grant, understanding from General 
Sheridan that he was on the White Oak Road 
near Five Forks, on the afternoon of the 30th, 
had replied to him that his position on this road 
was of very great importance, and concluded this 
answer with these words: "Can you not push up 
towards Burgess* Mills on the White Oak Road? "^ 

General Grant's wishes, as now understood, 
were that we should gain possession of the White 
Oak Road in our front. This was indicated in a 
despatch from him March 30th, to General Meade, 
the purport of which was known to us and had 
much to do with shaping our energies for action. 
The despatch was the following: 

As Warren and Humphreys advance, thus shortening 
their line, I think the former had better move by the left 
flank as far as he can stretch out with safety, and cover 
the White Oak Road if he can. This will enable Sheridan 
to reach the Southside Road by Ford's Road, and, it may 
be, double the enemy up, so as to drive him out of his 
works south of Hatcher's Run. 

In accordance with this understanding, Ayres 
had made a careful examination of the situation 
in his front, upon the results of which General 

' Sheridan's despatch to Grant, March 30th, 2.45 p.m., and Grant's 
reply thereto; Records, Warren Court of Inquiry, vol. ii., p. 1309. It 
afterwards transpired that Sheridan's cavalry did not long hold this 
position. Grant's despatch to Meade, March 31st, Rebellion Records, 
Serial 97, p. 339. 

The White Oak Road 67 

Warren had reported to Generals Meade and 
Grant that he believed he could, with his whole 
corps, gain possession of the White Oak Road. 
This proposition was made in face of the informa- 
tion of Grant's order of 7.40 this morning, that 
owing to the heavy rains the troops were to remain 
substantially as they were, but that three days' 
more rations should be issued to the Fifth Corps; 
an intimation of a possible cutting loose from our 
base of supplies for a time. 

Griffin's Division, being entrusted with a double 
duty — that of guarding the exposed left flank of 
the Fifth and Second Corps, and that of being in 
readiness to render prompt assistance in case of 
trouble arising from the demonstrations against 
the White Oak Road front — our adjustments had 
to be made for what in familiar speech is termed a 
"ticklish situation." Vague rumors from the 
direction of Five Forks, added to what we knew of 
the general probabilities, justified us in consider- 
able anxiety. There was a queer expression on 
Griffin's face when he showed me a copy of a 
message from Grant to Sheridan, late the evening 
before, which gave us the comical satisfaction of 
knowing that our inward fears had good outside 
support. This was what we thus enjoyed: "From 
the information I have sent you of Warren's po- 
sition, you will see that he is in danger of being 
attacked in the morning. If such occurs, be pre- 
pared to push up with all your force to assist him." 
The morning had now come. It is needless to 
remark that there was no lethargy in the minds of 

68 The Passine of the Armies 


any on that left flank of ours in a situation so 
critical, whether for attack or defense. 

It may seem strange that in such a state of 
things Warren should have made the suggestion 
for a movement to his front. But he was anxious, 
as were all his subordinates, to strike a blow in 
the line of our main business, which was to turn 
Lee's right and break up his army. Wet and worn 
and famished as all were, we were alive to the 
thought that promptness and vigor of action would 
at all events determine the conditions and chances 
of the campaign. And if this movement did not 
involve the immediate turning of Lee's right in his 
entrenchments, it would secure the White Oak 
Road to the west of them, which Grant had assured 
Sheridan was of so much importance, and would 
enable us to hold Lee's right in check, so that 
Sheridan could either advance on the White Oak 
Road toward us and Burgess' Mills, as Grant had 
asked him to do, or make a dash on the Southside 
Railroad, and cut their communications and turn 
their right by a wider sweep, as Grant had also 
suggested to him to do. 

Late in the forenoon Warren received through 
General Webb, chief of staff, the following order: 
"General Meade directs that should you deter- 
mine by your reconnaissance that you can gain 
possession of, and hold, the White Oak Road, you 
are to do so, notwithstanding the order to suspend 
operations to-day." This gave a sudden turn to 
dreams. In that humiliation, fasting, and prayer, 
visions arose like prophecy of old. We felt the 

The White Oak Road 69 

swing and sweep; we saw the enemy turned front 
and flank across the White Oak Road; Sheridan 
flashing on oiir wheeHng flank, cutting communica- 
tions, enfilading the Claiborne entrenchments ; our 
Second Corps over the main works, followed up 
by our troops in the old lines seizing the supreme 
moment to smash in the Petersburg defenses, scat- 
ter and capture all that was left of Lee's army, 
and sweep away every menace to the old flag 
between us and the James River, — mirage and 
glamour of boyish fancy, measuring things by its 
heart; daydreams of men familiar with disaster, 
drenched and famished, but building, as ever, 
castles of their souls above the level river of death. 

It was with mingled feelings of mortification, 
apprehension, and desperation that, in the very 
ecstasy of these visions, word came to us of Sheri- 
dan's latest despatch to Grant the evening before, 
that Pickett's Division of infantry was deployed 
along the White Oak Road, his right reaching to 
Five Forks, and the whole rebel cavalry was 
massing at that place, so that Sheridan would be 
held in check by them instead of dashing up, as 
was his wont, to give a cyclone edge to our wheeling 
flank. Grant's despatch to Meade, transmitting 
this, was a dire disenchantment. The knell rang 
thus: "From this despatch Warren will not have 
the cavalry support on his left flank that I ex- 
pected. He must watch closely his left flank." 

Although Grant had given out word that there 
should be no movement of troops that day, Lee 
seems not so to have resolved. Driven to seize 

70 The Passing of the Armies 

every advantage or desperate expedient, he had 
ordered four brigades, those of Wise, Gracie, and 
Hunton, with McGowan's South Carolina Brigade, 
to move out from their entrenchments, get across 
the flank of the Fifth Corps and smash it in. We 
did not know this, but it was the very situation 
which Grant had made the occasion for attacking 
ourselves. It was a strange coincidence, and it 
was to both parties a surprise. 

This was the condition of things and of minds 
when the advance ordered for the White Oak Road 
was put into execution. Ayres advanced soldier- 
like, as was his nature; resolute, firm-hearted, 
fearing nothing, in truth not fearing quite enough. 
Although he believed his advance would bring on 
a battle, he moved without skirmishers, but in a 
wedgelike formation guarding both flanks. His 
First Brigade, commanded by the gallant Win- 
throp, had the lead in line of battle, his right and 
rear supported by the Third Brigade, that of Gwyn, 
who was accounted a good fighter; and Denison's 
Maryland Brigade formed in column on Winthrop's 
left and rear, ready to face outward by the left 
flank in case of need; while a brigade of Crawford's 
was held in reserve in rear of the center. This 
would seem to be a prudent and strong formation 
of Ayres' command. The enemy's onset was swift 
and the encounter sudden. The blow fell without 
warning, enveloping Ayres' complete front. It 
appears that McGowan's Brigade struck squarely 
on Winthrop's left flank, with an oblique fire also 
on the Maryland Brigade, while the rest of the 

The White Oak Road 71 

attacking forces struck on his front and right. 
General Hunton' says they were not expecting 
to strike otir troops so soon and that the attack was 
not made by usual order, but that on discovering 
our advance so close upon them a gallant lieuten- 
ant in his brigade sprang in front of his line, wav- 
ing his sword, with the shout, "Follow me, boys!" 
whereupon all three brigades on their right dashed 
forward to the charge. Winthrop was over- 
whelmed and his supports demoralized. All he 
could hope for was to retire in good order. This 
he exerted himself to effect. But this is not an 
easy thing to do when once the retreat is started 
before a spirited foe superior in numbers, or in the 
flush of success. In vain the sturdy Denison 
strove to stem the torrent. A disabling wound 
struck down his brave example, and the effect of 
this shows how much the moral forces have to do 
in sustaining the physical. Brigade after brigade 
broke, that strange impulse termed a "panic" 
took effect, and the retreat became a rout. 

Ay res, like a roaring lion, endeavors to check this 
disorder, and makes a stand on each favoring crest 
and wooded ravine. But in vain. His men 
stream past him. They come back on Crawford's 
veteran division and burst through it in spite of 
all the indignant Kellogg can do, involving this 
also in the demoralization; and the whole crowd 
comes back reckless of everything but to get 
behind the lines on the Boydton Road, plunging 
through the swampy run, breaking through Griffin's 

' Records, Warren Court, p. 623. 

12 The Passing of the Armies 

right where he and Bartlett re-form them behind 
the Third Brigade. The pursuing enemy swarm- 
ing down the opposite bank are checked there by 
the sharp musketry from our Hne. Not knowing 
but the enemy were in force sufficient to smash 
through us on the left, I prepared for action. 
Griffin authorized me to use a portion of the artil- 
lery, and I swung two pieces to the right front, 
while he himself with great exertion got a battery 
into position along Bartlett's front. The enemy 
were gathering force, although in much confusion. 
I was apprehensive of an attempt to take us in 
flank on the left in Gregory's front, and was about 
giving my attention to this, when General Warren 
and General Griffin came down at full speed, both 
out of breath, with their efforts to rally the panic- 
stricken men whose honor was their own, and evi- 
dently under great stress of feeling. Griffin breaks 
forth first, after his high-proof fashion: "General 
Chamberlain, the Fifth Corps is eternally damned." 
I essayed some pleasantry: "Not till you are in 
heaven." Griffin does not smile nor hear, but 
keeps right on: "I tell Warren you will wipe out 
this disgrace, and that's what we're here for." 
Then Warren breaks out, with stirring phrase, but 
uttered as if in a strangely compressed tone: 
"General Chamberlain, will you save the honor of 
the Fifth Corps? That's all there is about it." 
That appeal demanded a chivalrous response. 
Honor is a mighty sentiment, and the Fifth Corps 
was dear to me. But my answer was not up to 
the keynote — I confess that. I was expecting 

The White Oak Road 72> 

every moment an attack on my left flank now that 
the enemy had disclosed our situation. And my 
little brigade had taken the brunt of things thus 
far, but the day before the last, winning a hard- 
fought field from which they had come off griev- 
ously thinned and torn and worn, and whence I 
had but hardly brought myself away. I men- 
tioned Bartlett, who had our largest and best 
brigade, which had been but little engaged. "We 
have come to you; you know what that means," 
was the only answer. ''I'll try it, General; only 
don't let anybody stop me except the enemy." 
I had reason for that protest as things had been 
going. "I will have a bridge ready here in less 
than an hour. You can't get men through this 
swamp in any kind of order," says Warren. "It 
may do to come back on. General ; it will not do to 
stop for that now. My men will go straight 
through." So at a word the First Battalion of 
the 198th Pennsylvania, Major Glenn command- 
ing, plunges into the muddy branch, waist deep 
and more,^ with cartridge-boxes borne upon the 
bayonet sockets above the turbid waters; the 
Second Battalion commanded now by Captain 
Stanton, since Sickel and McEuen were gone, 
keeping the banks beyond clear of the enemy by 
their well-directed fire, until the First has formed 
in skirmishing order and pressed up the bank. I 
then pushed through to support Glenn and formed 

' General Warren states in his testimony before the Court of Inquiry 
that this stream was sixty feet wide and four or five feet deep. Records, 
p. 717. 

74 The Passing of the Armies 

my brigade in line of battle on the opposite bank, 
followed by Gregory's in colimin of regiments. 
The enemy fell back without much resistance 
until finding supports on broken strong ground 
they made stand after stand. Griffin followed 
with Bartlett's Brigade, in reserve. In due time 
Ayres' troops got across and followed up on our 
left rear, while Crawford was somewhere to our 
right and rear, but out of sight or reach after we 
had once cleared the bank of the stream. It seems 
that General Warren sent to General Meade the 
following despatch: "I am going to send forward 
a brigade from my left, supported by all I can get 
of Crawford and Ayres, and attack. . . . This 
will take place about 1.45, if the enemy does not 
attack sooner." This was the only recognition 
or record we were to have in official reports ; it was 
not all we were to achieve in unwritten history. 

At about this time. Miles, of the Second Corps, 
had, after the fashion of that corps, gone in hand- 
somely in his front, somewhat to the right of our 
division, and pressed so far out as to flank Wise's 
Brigade on the left of the troops that had attacked 
Ayres, and drove them back half-way to their start- 
ing-point. This had the effect to induce the enemy 
in my front to retire their line to a favorable position 
on the crest of a ravine where they made another 
determined stand. After sharp fighting here we 
drove them across an extensive field into some works 
they seemed to have already prepared, of the usual 
sort in field operations — logs and earth, — ^from 
which they delivered a severe fire which caused the 

The White Oak Road 75 

right of my line to waver. Taking advantage of 
the slight shelter of a crest in the open field I was 
preparing for a final charge, when I received an 
order purporting to be Warren's, to halt my com- 
mand and hold my position until he could recon- 
noitre conditions in my front. I did not like this 
much. It was a hard place to stay in. The staff 
officer who brought me the order had his horse 
shot under him as he delivered it. I rode back 
to see what the order meant. I found General 
Griffin and General Warren in the edge of the woods 
overlooking the field, and reported my plans. 
We had already more than recovered the ground 
taken and lost by the Second and Third Divisions. 
The Fifth Corps had been rapidly and completely 
vindicated, and the question was now of taking 
the White Oak Road, which had been the object 
of so much wishing and worrying. It was evi- 
dent that things could not remain as they were. 
The enemy would soon attack and drive me back. 
And it would cost many men even to try to with- 
draw from such a position. The enemy's main 
works were directly on my right flank, and how 
the intervening woods might be utilized to cover 
an assault on that flank none of us knew. I pro- 
posed to put Gregory's Brigade into those woods, 
by battalion in echelon by the left, by which for- 
mation he would take in flank and reverse in suc- 
cession any attacks on my right. When Gregory 
should be well advanced I would charge the works 
across the field with my own brigade. My plan 
being approved, I instructed Gregory to keep in 

76 The Passing of the Armies 

the woods, moving forward with an inclination 
towards his left to keep him closed in toward me, 
and at the same time to open the intervals in his 
echelons so that he would be free to deliver a 
strong fire on his own front if necessary, and the 
moment he struck any opposition to open at once 
with full volleys and make all the demonstration 
he could, and I would seize that moment to make a 
dash at the works in my front. Had I known of 
the fact that General Lee himself was personally 
directing affairs in our front, ^ I might not have 
been so rash, or thought myself so cool. 

Riding forward I informed my officers of my 
purpose and had their warm support. Soon the 
roar of Gregory's guns rose in the woods like a 
whirlwind. We sounded bugles "Forward!" and 
that way we go; mounted officers leading their 
commands, pieces at the right shoulder until at 
close quarters. The action and color of the scene 
were supported by my horse Charlemagne, who, 
though battered and torn as I was, insisted on 
coming up. We belonged together; he knew that 
as well as I. He had been shot down in battle 
twice before ; but his Morgan endurance was under 
him, and his Kentucky blood was up. 

What we had to do could not be done by firing. 
This was foot-and-hand business. We went with 
a rush, not minding ranks nor alignments, but 
with open front to lessen loss from the long-range 
rifles. Within effective range, about three hun- 

' Testimony of General Hunton and General McGowan, Warren 
Court Records, vol. i., pp. 625 and 648. 

The White Oak Road 'n 

dred yards, the sharp, cutting fire made us reel 
and shiver. Now, quick or never! On and over! 
The impetuous 185th New York rolls over the 
enemy's right, and seems to swallow it up; the 
198th Pennsylvania, with its fourteen companies, 
half veterans, half soldiers "born so," swing in 
upon their left, striking Hunton's Brigade in front, 
and for a few minutes there is a seething wave of 
count ercurrents, then rolling back, leaving a fringe 
of wrecks, — and all is over. We pour over the 
works, swing to the right and drive the enemy into 
their entrenchments along the Claiborne Road, 
and then establish ourselves across the White Oak 
Road facing northeast, and take breath.' 

Major Woodward in his history of the 198th 
Pennsylvania, giving a graphic outline of the last 
dash, closes with an incident I had not recorded. 
"Only for a moment," he says, "did the sudden 
and terrible blast of death cause the right of the 
line to waver. On they dashed, every color flying, 
officers leading, right in among the enemy, leap- 
ing the breastworks, — a confused struggle of firing, 
cutting, thrusting, a tremendous surge of force, 
both moral and physical, on the enemy's breaking 
lines, — and the works were carried. Private Augus- 
tus Ziever captured the flag of the 46th Virginia 
in mounting one of the parapets, and handed it 
to General Chamberlain in the midst of the melee, 
who immediately gave it back to him, telling him 

' General Hunton, since Senator from Virginia, said in his testimony 
before the Warren Court, speaking of this charge, "I thought it was one 
of the most gallant things I had ever seen." — Records, Part i, p. 625. 

78 The Passing of the Armies 

to keep it and take the credit that belonged to him. 
Almost that entire regiment was captured at the 
same time." It scarcely need be added that the 
man who captured that battle flag was sent with 
it in person to General Warren, and that he re- 
ceived a medal of honor from the Government. 

In due time Gregory came up out of the woods, 
his face beaming with satisfaction at the result, 
to which his solid work, so faithfully performed, 
had been essential. His brigade was placed in 
line along the White Oak Road on our right, and 
a picket thrown out close up to the enemy's works. 
This movement had taken three hours, and was 
almost a continuous fight, with several crescendo 
passages, and a final cadence of wild, chromatic 
sweeps settling into the steady keynote, thrilling 
with the chords of its unwritten overtones. It 
had cost us a hundred men, but this was all too 
great, of men like these, — and for oblivion. It 
was to cost us something more — a sense of fruit- 
lessness and thanklessness. 

It seems that in the black moment, when our 
two divisions were coming back in confusion, 
Meade had asked Grant to have Sheridan strike the 
attacking force on their right and rear, as he had 
been ordered to do in case Warren was attacked. 
For we have Grant's message to Meade, sent at 
12.40, which is evidently a reply: "It will take so 
long to communicate with Sheridan that he can- 
not be brought to co-operation unless he comes up 
in obedience to orders sent him last night. I un- 
derstood General Forsyth to say that as soon as 

The White Oak Road 79 

another division of cavalry got up, he would send 
it forward. It may be there now. I will send to 
him again, at once." 

So far, to all appearance, all was well. The 
Fifth Corps was across the White Oak Road. 
General Grant's wish that we should extend our 
left across this road as near to the enemy as possible, 
so that Sheridan could double up the enemy and 
drive him north of Hatcher's Run, had been liter- 
ally fulfilled. It had cost us three days' hard work 
and hard fighting, and more than two thousand 
men. It had disclosed vital points. General 
Grant's notice of all this, as given in his Memoirs 
(vol. ii., p. 435), representing all these movements 
as subordinated to those of General Sheridan, is 
the following: "There was considerable fighting 
in taking up these new positions for the Second 
and Fifth Corps, in which the Army of the James 
had also to participate somewhat, and the losses 
were quite severe. This is what was known as 
the battle of the White Oak Road."' 

The understanding of this affair has been con- 
fused by the impression that it was the Second 

' Contrasts are sometimes illumining. When our assault on the 
enemy's right, March 31st, was followed by General Miles' attack on the 
Claiborne entrenchments on the second of April, after the exigency at 
Five Forks had called away most of its defenders, — Generals Ander- 
son and Johnson, with Hunton, Wise, Gracie, and Fulton's Brigades 
being of the number, — and the whole rebel army was demoralized, 
General Grant, now free to appreciate such action, despatches General 
Meade at otice: "Miles has made a big thing of it, and deserves the 
highest praise for the pertinacity with which he stuck to the enemy until 
he wrung from him victory." Verily, something besides circumstances 
can "alter cases." 

8o The Passing of the Armies 

Corps troops which attacked and drove back the 
forces of the enemy that had driven in the Second 
and Third Divisions of the Fifth Corps. In the 
complicated rush and momentous consummation 
of the campaign, and particularly in the singular 
history of the Fifth Corps for those days, in which 
corps and division and brigade commanders were 
changed, there was no one specially charged with 
the care of seeing to it that the movements of this 
corps in relation to other corps were properly 
reported as to the important points of time as 
well as of place. General Miles, doubtless, sup- 
posed he was attacking the same troops that had 
repulsed part of the Fifth Corps. He moved 
promptly when Griffin, with infantry and artillery, 
was checking the onrushing enemy now close upon 
our front; and, attacking in his own front — that 
of the Second Corps, — ^fought his way valiantly 
close up to the enemy's works in that part of their 
line. Miles reported to Humphreys that he was 
"ahead of the Fifth Corps," which subsequently 
bore off to the left of him and left a wide interval. 
This expression must not be understood as direc- 
tion in a right line. It is used rather as related 
to the angular distance between the Boydton and 
the White Oak Roads, this being less where Miles 
was, on the right, and widening by a large angle 
towards the left, where the Fifth Corps was. It is 
as one line is ahead of another when advanced in 
echelon; or as a ship tacking to windward with 
another is said to be "ahead" of the latter when 
she is on the weather beam of it. Miles did not 

The White Oak Road 8i 

come in contact with a single regiment that had 
attacked the Fifth Corps. He struck quite to 
the right of us all, attacking in his own front. But 
it got into the reports otherwise, and "went up." 
Grant accepted it as given; and so it has got into 
history, and never can be gotten out. General 
Miles did not get ahead of the Fifth Corps that day, 
but he came up gallantly on its flank and rendered 
it great assistance by turning the flank of General 
Wise and keeping the enemy from massing on our 
front. He reports the capture of the flag of the 
47th Alabama, a regiment of Law's old brigade of 
Longstreet's Corps, which was nowhere near the 
front of the Fifth Corps on this day. 

In the investigations before the Covirt of In- 
qtdry, General Warren felt under the necessity of 
excusing himself from the responsibility of the 
disastrous results of Ay res' advance on the morn- 
ing of the thirty-first. He is at pains to show that 
he did not intend an attack there, although he had 
suggested the probable success of such movement.^ 
What then was this advance? Surely not to create 
a diversion in favor of Sheridan before Dinwiddie. 
At all events, there was an endeavor to get posses- 
sion of the White Oak Road. And that could not 
be done without bringing on a battle, as Ayres 
said he knew, beforehand,^ and afterwards knew 
still better, and we also, unmistakably. Warren 
was evidently im.pressed with Grant's desire to 
gain the White Oak Road in order to strike the 

' Records, Warren Court, Part ii., p. 1525. 

* Testimony, Warren Court Records, Part i., p. 247. 


S2 The Passing of the Armies 

enemy's right as soon as possible; and he was not 
aware of any change of intention. 

But however this may have been, when Ayres* 
advance was repulsed, why was it felt necessary to 
recover that field and "the honor of the Fifth 
Corps " ? Unless it was the intention to take forci- 
ble possession of the White Oak Road, the re- 
covery of that field was not a tactical necessity, 
but only — if I may so speak — a sentimental 
necessity. And there was no more dishonor in 
this reconnaissance — if it was only that — being 
driven back than in Sheridan's reconnaissance 
toward Five Forks being driven back upon Din- 
widdle, for his conduct in which he received only 
praise. It is evident that General Grant thought 
an attack was somehow involved; for hearing of 
Ayres' repulse, he blames General Warren for not 
attacking with his whole corps, and asks General 
Meade, "What is to prevent him from pitching in 
with his whole corps and attacking before giving 
him time to entrench or retire in good order to his 
old entrenchments?" This is exactly what was 
done, before receiving this suggestion; but it did 
not elicit approval, or even notice, from Grant or 
Meade, or Warren. As things turned, Warren 
was put under a strong motive to ignore this epi- 
sode; and as for Grant, he had other interests in 

I In our innocence we thought we had gained a 
great advantage. We had the White Oak Road, 
and were across it, and as near to the enemy as 
possible, according to Grant's wish. Now we 

The White Oak Road 83 

were ready for the consummate stroke, the achieve- 
ment of the object for which all this toil and trial 
had been undergone. It needed but little more. 
The splendid Second Corps was on our right, 
close up to the enemy's works. We were more 
than ready. If only Sheridan with but a single 
division of our cavalry could disengage himself 
from his occupation before Dinwiddie, so far away 
to our rear, and now so far off from any strategic 
point, where he had first been placed for the pur- 
pose of raiding upon the Danville and Southside 
Railroads, — which objective had been distinctly 
given up in orders by General Grant, — if with his 
audacity and insistance Sheridan could have placed 
himself in position to obey Grant's order, and come 
to Warren's assistance when he was attacked, by 
a dash up between us and Five Forks, we would 
have swiftly inaugurated the beginning of the 
end, — Grant's main wish and purpose latest ex- 
pressed to Sheridan, of ending matters here before 
he went back. But another, and by far minor, 
objective interposed. Instead of the cavalry com- 
ing to help us complete our victories at the 
front, we were to go to the rescue of Sheridan at 
the rear. 

Little did we dream that on the evening of the 
30th, Grant had formed the intention of detaching 
the Fifth Corps to operate with Sheridan in turn- 
ing the enemy's right. This was consistent, how- 
ever, with the understanding in the midnight 
conference on the 29th. The proposition to Sheri- 
dan was this: "If your situation in the morning is 

§4 The Passing of the Armies 

such as to justify the beHef that you can turn the 
enemy's right with the assistance of a corps of 
infantry entirely detached from the balance of 
the army, I will so detach the Fifth Corps and 
place the whole under your command for the opera- 
tion. Let me know early in the morning as you 
can your judgment in the matter, and I will make 
the necessary orders. ..." Precisely what War- 
ren had proposed to do at that very time on Gra- 
velly Run, only Sheridan would not have been in 
chief command. His assistance had, however, 
been promised to Warren in case he was attacked. 
Sheridan replies to this on the morning of the 31st. 
" ... If the ground would permit, I believe I 
could, with the Sixth Corps, turn the enemy's 
right, or break through his lines; but I would not 
like the Fifth Corps to make such an attempt." 
By "turning the enemy's right," and "breaking 
through his lines," he meant only the isolated 
position at Five Forks, where for two days past 
there was nothing to prevent his handling them 
alone, and easily cutting the Southside Railroad. 
Fortunately for our cause, Lee was so little like 
himself as to allow the detachment of a consider- 
able portion of his infantry from the entrenchments 
on the evening of the 30th to reinforce this posi- 
tion, for the sake, probably, of covering the 
Southside Road, to which, however, this was not 
the only key. 

Asking for the Sixth Corps shows a character- 
istic intensity of self-consciousness and disregard 
of the material elements of the situation wholly 

The White Oak Road 85 

unlike the habits of our commanders in the Army 
of the Potomac. The Sixth Corps was away on 
the right center of our hues, even beyond Ord 
with the Army of the James, and the roads were 
impracticable for a rapid movement like that 
demanded. Grant's predilection for his forceful 
and brilliant cavalry commander could not over- 
come the material difficulty of moving the Sixth 
Corps from its place in the main line before Peters- 
burg: he could only offer him the Fifth. And 
Meade, with meekness quite suggestive of a newly 
regenerate nature, seems to have offered no objec- 
tion to this distraction from the main objective, 
and this inauguration of proceedings which re- 
peatedly broke his army into detachments serving 
under other commanders, and whereby, in the 
popular prestige and final honors of the campaign, 
the commander of the Army of the Potomac 
found himself subordinated to the militant cavalry 
commander of the newly made * ' Middle Military 

So while Warren was begging to be permitted 
to take his corps through fields sodden saddle-girth 
deep with rain and mire, and get across the right 
of Lee's entrenched position, the purpose had 
already been formed of sending him and his corps 
to try to force the enemy from the position where 
they were gathering for a stand after having forced 
Sheridan's cavalry back upon its base at the Bois- 
seau Cross Road, and holding his main body in- 
active at Dinwiddle a whole day through. And 
after Warren had accomplished all that he had 

86 The Passing of the Armies 

undertaken in accordance with the expressed 
wishes of his superiors, this purpose was to be put 
into execution. 

Minds accustomed to consider evidence could 
not resist the impression that at the midnight 
conference on the rainy night of March 29th, 
when Grant had announced that they would act 
together as one army, one item of the arrangement 
was that nothing should be allowed to interfere 
with Sheridan's being the leading spirit, and so 
actual field-commander in this enterprise. I am 
not sure that we can blame Sheridan or Grant for 
this if it were so. But it was at least a good work- 
ing hypothesis on which to explain facts. 

I do not know that Warren was then aware of 
General Grant's loss of interest in this movement 
for the White Oak Road since the new plan for 
Sheridan and the Fifth Corps. Let us recall: at 
eight o'clock on the evening before, Meade had 
sent Grant a despatch from Warren, suggesting 
this movement. Meade forwarded it to Grant, 
with the remark: "I think his suggestion the best 
thing we can do under existing circumstances — 
that is, let Humphreys relieve Griffin, and let 
Warren move on to the White Oak Road, and 
endeavor to turn the enemy's right." To this 
Grant replied at 8.35: "It will just suit what I 
intended to propose — to let Himiphreys relieve 
Griffin's Division, and let that move further to 
the left. Warren should get himself strong to- 
night." Orders being sent out accordingly, and 
reported by Meade, General Grant replies late 

The White Oak Road 87 

that evening: "Your orders to Warren are right. 
I do not expect him to advance in the morning. 
I supposed, however, that he was now up to the 
White Oak Road. If he is not, I do not want 
him to move up without further orders."^ Meade 
replies: "He will not be allowed to advance unless 
you so direct."^ 

It is impossible to think that Warren knew of 
this last word of Grant on the subject of the White 
Oak Road, but, as we read it now, it throws light 
on many things then "dark." It was consistent 
with Grant's new purpose, but it must have per- 
plexed Meade. And at the turn things took — ■ 
and men also — during the next forenoon and mid- 
day, what must have been the vexation in Grant's 
imperturbable mind, and the ebullition of the few 
unsanctified remnants in Meade's strained and 
restrained spirit, those who knew them can freely 
imagine. And as for Warren, when all this light 
broke upon him, in the midst of his own hardly 
corrected reverses, into what sullen depths his 
spirit must have been cast, to find himself liable 
to a suit for breach of promise for going out to an 
open-handed meeting with Robert Lee of the White 
Oak Road when he was already clandestinely en- 
gaged to Philip Sheridan of Dinwiddle. 

A new anxiety now arose. Just as we had got 
settled in our position on the White Oak Road, 
heavy firing was heard from the direction of Sheri- 

' Records, Warren Court, vol. ii., p. 1242. 

» This is to be compared with Meade's order of IO.30 A.M., March 
3 1 st through General Webb : see ante. 

88 The Passing of the Armies 

dan's supposed position. This attracted eager 
attention on our part as, with that open flank, 
Sheridan's movements were all important to us. 
At my headquarters we had dismounted, but had 
not ventured yet to slacken girths. I was standing 
on a little eminence, wrapped in thoughts of the 
declining day and of these heavy waves of sound, 
which doubtless had some message for us, soon or 
sometime, when Warren came up with anxious 
earnestness of manner, and asked me what I 
thought of this firing, — whether it was nearing or 
receding. I believed it was receding towards 
Dinwiddie; that was what had deepened my 
thoughts. Testing the opinion by all tokens 
known to us, Warren came to the same conclusion. 
He then for a few minutes discussed the situation 
and the question of possible duty for us in the 
absence of orders. I expressed the opinion that 
Grant was looking out for Sheridan, and if help 
were needed, he would be more likely to send 
Miles than us, as he well knew we were at a criti- 
cal point, and one important for his further plans 
as we understood them, especially as Lee was known 
to be personally directing affairs in our front. 
However, I thought it quite probable that we 
should be blamed for not going to the support of 
Sheridan even without orders, when we believed 
the enemy had got the advantage of him. "Well, 
will you go ? " Warren asked. ' ' Certainly, General, 
if you think it best ; but stirely you do not want to 
abandon this position." At this point. General 
Griffin came up and Warren asked him to send 

The White Oak Road 89 

Bartlett's Brigade at once to threaten the rear of 
the enemy then pressing upon Sheridan. That 
took away our best brigade. Bartlett was an 
experienced and capable officer, and the hazardous 
and trying task he had in hand would be well done. 

Just after sunset Warren came out again, and 
we crept on our hands and knees out to our ex- 
treme picket within two hundred yards of the 
enemy's works, near the angle of the Claiborne 
Road. There was some stir on our picket line, 
and the enemy opened with musketry and artil- 
lery, which gave us all the information we wanted. 
That salient was well fortified. The artillery was 
protected by embrasures and little lunettes, so 
that they could get a slant- and cross-fire on any 
movement we should make within their range. 

I then began to put my troops into bivouac for 
the night, and extended my picket around my left 
and rear to the White Oak Road, where it joined 
the right of Ayres' picket line. It was an anxious 
night along that front. The darkness that deep- 
ened around and over us was not much heavier 
than that which shrouded our minds, and to some 
degree shadowed our spirits. We did not know 
what was to come, or go. We were alert — Gregory 
and I — on the picket line nearly all the night, and 
Griffin came up to us at frequent intervals, wide- 
awake as we were. 

In the meantime many things had been going 
on, and going back. It came to us now, in the 
middle of the night, that Sheridan had been at- 
tacked by Fitzhugh Lee and Pickett's infantry 

90 The Passing of the Armies 

and driven pell-mell into Dinwiddie. He could 
hardly hold himself there. The polarities of things 
were reversed. Instead of admitting the Fifth 
Corps to the contemplated honor of turning Lee's 
right, or breaking through his lines, between Din- 
widdie and Five Forks, orders and entreaties 
came fast and thick, in every sense of these terms, 
for the Fifth Corps to leave the White Oak Road, 
Lee's company, and everything else, and rush 
back five miles to the rear, floundering through 
the mire and dark, to help Sheridan stay where 
Pickett and Fitzhugh Lee had put him. Indeed, 
the suggestive information had leaked out from 
Grant's headquarters that Sheridan might be 
expected to retreat by way of the Vaughan Road, 
quite to the rear of our entire left. This would 
leave all the forces that had routed Sheridan at 
perfect liberty to fall upon our exposed flank, and 
catch the Fifth Corps to be bandied to and fro 
between them and the enemy in their fortifications 
near at hand. By the time the Fifth Corps began 
to be picked to pieces by divisions and brigades, 
and finally made a shuttle-cock as an entire organi- 
zation, the situation of things and of persons had 
very much changed. 

At 6.30 P.M., General Warren received an order 
to send a brigade to Sheridan's relief by the short- 
est road threatening the rear of the enemy then 
in his front. Soon other orders followed, — the 
last of these being to send the brigade by the 
Boydton Road. This would have been quite a 
different matter. But Bartlett had already been 

The White Oak Road 91 

gone an hour when this order came, and to the 
Crump Road, reaching this by aid of a cart track 
through woods and mire. Of course, Warren 
could not recall Bartlett. But to comply as nearly 
as possible with the order, he at once directed 
General Pearson, who with three of Bartlett's 
regiments was guarding the trains on the Boydton 
Road, to move immediately down towards Din- 
widdle. Pearson got to the crossing of the main 
stream of Gravelly Run, and finding that the bridge 
was gone, and the stream not fordable, halted for 
orders. But things were crowding thick and fast. 
Pearson's orders were countermanded, and orders 
came from army headquarters for Griffin's Division 
to go. 

On the news of Sheridan's discomfiture, Grant 
seems first to have thought of Warren's predica- 
ment. In a despatch to Meade early in the evening 
he says: "I would much rather have Warren back 
on the Plank Road than to be attacked front and 
rear where he is. He should entrench, front and 
rear of his left, at least, and be ready to make a 
good fight of it if he is attacked in the morning. 
We will make no offensive movement ourselves 

That was on the evening before the battle of 
Five Forks. 

This was a significant despatch ; showing among 
other things Grant's intention of holding on, if 
possible, for the present at least, to the White 
Oak Road, at the Claiborne salient; for that was 
where our two advanced brigades of the Fifth 

92 The Passing of the Armies 

Corps were holding. This evidence has not been 
well appreciated by those who have formed their 
judgment, or written the history, of those three 
days' battles. And Meade had been trying all 
day to get up entrenching tools and implements 
for making the roads passable for wheels. A 
thousand men had been working at this for the 
two days past. 

At 8.30 came the notice, — communicated con- 
fidentially, I remember, — that the whole army was 
going to contract its lines. At nine o'clock came 
the order from Grant to Meade: " Let Warren draw 
back at once to his position on the Boydton Road, 
and send a division of infantry to Sheridan's relief. 
The troops to Sheridan should start at once, and 
go down the Boydton Road." Meade promptly 
sent orders for the corps to retire, and for Griffin 
to go to Sheridan, and go at once. 

Apparently nobody at general headquarters 
seems to have remembered two incidents concern- 
ing the selection of Griffin's Division for this 
movement: first, that Bartlett of this division was 
already by this time down upon the enemy's rear, 
by another more direct though more difficult 
road, and in a far more effective position for the 
main purpose than could be reached by the Boyd- 
ton; and secondly, that the two remaining brigades 
of this division were with me on and across the 
White Oak Road, — the farthest off from the Boyd- 
ton Road, and most impeded by difficult ground, 
of any troops remaining on our lines. Another 
circumstance, forgotten or ignored, was that the 

The White Oak Road 93 

bridge at the Plank Road crossing of Gravelly 
Run was gone/ and that the stream was not ford- 
able for infantry. Warren, in reporting his pro- 
ceeding to comply with the order, reported also 
the destruction of the bridge and his intention to 
repair it; but this seems somehow, from first to 
last, to have added to the impatience felt toward 
him at those headquarters. 

Grant had experienced a change of mind — a 
complete and decided one. His imperative order 
now received meant giving up entirely the position 
we had just been ordered to entrench, across the 
hard- won White Oak Road. Within ten minutes 
from the receipt of this order, Warren directed 
his division commanders to gather up their pickets 
and all outlying troops, and take position on the 
Boydton Road. Griffin was directed to recall 
Bartlett and then move down the Plank Road and 
report to Sheridan. But as it would take time 
for Griffin to get his scattered division together 
and draw back through the mud and darkness to 
the Boydton Road, ready to start for Sheridan, 
Warren, anxious to fulfill the spirit and object of 
the order, rather than render a mechanical obedi- 
ence to the letter of it, sends his nearest division, 
under Ayres, the strong, stern old soldier of the 
Mexican War, to start at once for Sheridan. Mean- 
time, the divisions of Griffin and Crawford were 

' Colonel Theodore Lyman, aid-de-camp on the staff of General 
Meade, wrote in his diary on the night of March 30th: "Roads reduced 
to a hopeless pudding, Gravelly Run swollen to treble its usual size, and 
Hatcher's Run swept away its bridges and required pontoons." — Records, 
Warren Court of Inquiry, vol. i., p. 519. 

94 The Passing of the Armies 

taking steps to obey the order to mass on the 
Boydton Road. For my own part, I did not move 
a man, wishing to give my men all possible time 
to rest, until Bartlett should arrive, who must 
come past my rear. 

This was the situation when at half-past ten in 
the evening came an order throwing everything 
into a complete muddle. It was from Meade to 
Warren: "Send Griffin promptly as ordered by the 
Boydton Plank Road, but move the balance of 
your command by the road Bartlett is on, and 
strike the enemy in rear, who is between him and 
Dinwiddle. Should the enemy turn on you, your 
line of retreat will be by J. M. Brooks' and R. 
Boisseau's on Boydton Road. You must be very 
prompt in this movement, and get the forks of the 
road at Brooks' so as to open to Boisseau's. Don't 
encumber yoiu-self with anything that will impede 
your progress, or prevent your moving in any 
direction across the country." The grim humor 
of the last suggestion was probably lost on Warren, 
in his present distraction. "Moving in any direc- 
tion" in the blackness of darkness across that 
country of swamps and sloughs and quicksands, 
would be a comedy with the savage forces of nature 
and of man in pantomime, and a spectacle for the 
laughter of the gods. Nor was there much left 
to encumber ourselves with, more especially in 
the incident of food. Grant had been very anxious 
about rations for us ever since early morning, 
when he had said that although there were to be 
no movements that day, the Fifth Corps must be 

The White Oak Road 95 

supplied with three days' rations more. But all 
the day nothing had been gotten up. Indeed, I 
do not know how they could have found us, or 
got to us if they had. Grant had repeated impera- 
tive orders to Meade to spare no exertions in getting 
rations forward to the Fifth Corps; whereupon 
Meade, who had himself eaten salt with this 
old Corps, gave orders to get supplies to us 
anyway — if not possible for trains, then by pack- 
mules. The fortunate and picturesque conjunc- 
ture was that some few rations were thus got up 
by the flexible and fitting donkey-train, while we 
were floundering and plunging from every direc- 
tion for our rendezvous on the Boydton Road or 
elsewhere, just at that witching hour of the night 
when the flying cross-shuttle of oscillating military 
orders was weaving such a web of movements 
between the unsubstantial footing of earth and 
the more substantial blackness of the midnight 
sky, matched only by the benighted mind. 

By this last order the Corps was to be turned 
end for end, and inside out. Poor Warren might 
be forgiven if at such an order his head swam and 
his wits collapsed. He responds thus, and has 
been much blamed for it by those under canvas, 
then and since: "I issued my orders on General 
Webb's first despatch to fall back; which made the 
divisions retire in the order of Ayres, Crawford, 
and Griffin, which was the order they could most 
rapidly move in. I cannot change them to-night 
without producing confusion that will render all 
my operations nugatory. I will now send General 

96 The Passing of the Armies 

Ayres to General Sheridan, and take General 
Griffin and General Crawford to move against the 
enemy, as this last despatch directs I should. I 
cannot accomplish the object of the orders I have 

But what inconceivable addition to the confu- 
sion came in the following despatch from General 
Meade to Warren at one o'clock at night: "Would 
not time be gained by sending troops by the Quaker 
Road? Sheridan cannot maintain himself at Din- 
widdle without reinforcements, and yours are the 
only ones that can. be sent. Use every exertion 
to get the troops to him as soon as possible. If 
necessary, send troops by both roads, and give up 
the rear attack.'" 

Rapidly changing plans and movements in 
effecting the single purpose for which battle is 
delivered are what a soldier must expect; and the 
ability to form them wisely and promptly illus- 
trates and tests military capacity. But the con- 
ditions in this case rendered the execution of these 
peculiarly perplexing. Orders had to pass through 
many hands; and in the difficulties of delivery 
owing to distance and the nature of the ground, 
the situation which called for them had often en- 
tirely changed. Hence some discretion as to 
details in executing a definite purpose must be 
accorded to subordinate commanders. 

' See this despatch of 10.55 P-M., March 31st. War Records, Serial 97, 
p. 367. General Warren, in his testimony before the Court of Inquiry, 
claimed that the word "Otherwise" should be prefixed to the last 
sentence of this order, as it was dictated. — Records, p. 730, note. 

The White Oak Road 97 

Look for a moment at a summary of the orders 
Warren received that evening, after we had 
reached the White Oak Road, affecting his com- 
mand in detail : 

1. To send a brigade to menace the enemy's 
rear before Sheridan. 

But he had already of his own accord sent Bart- 
lett's Brigade, of Griffin's Division, the nearest 
troops, by the nearest way. 

2. To send this brigade by the Boydton Road 
instead of the Crump. 

This was a very different direction, and of different 
tactical effect. It being impossible to recall Bart- 
lett, Warren sent Pearson, already on the Boydton 
Road, with a detachment of Bartlett's Brigade. 

3. To send Griffin's Division by the Boydton 
Road to Sheridan, and draw back the whole corps 
to that road. 

Griffin's Division being widely and far scattered 
and impossible to be collected for hours, Warren 
sends Ayres' Division, nearest, and most disen- 

4. To send Ayres and Crawford by the way 
Bartlett had gone, and insisting on Griffin's going 
by Boydton Road. 

This would cause Ayres and Bartlett to exchange 
places — crossing each other in a long, difficult, and 
needless march. 

5. Ayres having gone, according to Warren's 
orders. Griffin and Crawford to go by Bartlett's 

But Griffin had sent for Bartlett to withdraw 

98 The Passing of the Armies 

from his position and join the division ready to 
mass on the Boydton Road. 

It is difficult to keep a clear head in trying to 
see into this muddle now: we can imagine the 
state of Warren's mind. But this was not all. 
Within the space of two hours, Warren received 
orders involving important movements for his 
entire corps, in four different directions. These 
came in rapid succession, and in the following 

1. To entrench where he was (on the White 
Oak Road), and be ready for a fight in the morning. 
This from Grant. 

2. To fall back with the whole corps from the 
White Oak Road to the Boydton, and send a di- 
vision by this road to relieve Sheridan. This from 

3. Griffin to be pushed down the Boydton 
Road, but the rest of the corps — Ayres and Craw- 
ford — to go across the fields to the Crump Road, 
the way Bartlett had gone, and attack the enemy 
in rear who were opposing Sheridan. This from 

This required a movement in precisely the op- 
posite direction from that indicated in the preced- 
ing order, — which was now partly executed. Ayres 
had already started. 

4. Meade's advice to send these troops by the 
Quaker Road (ten miles around), and give up the 
rear attack. 

5. To these may be added the actual final 
movement, which was that Ayres went down the 

The White Oak Road 99 

Boydton Road, and Griffin and Crawford went 
by the "dirt" road across the country to the 
Crump Road as indicated in Meade's previous 

There is one thing more. General Grant thought 
it necessary, in order to make sure that Sheridan 
should have complete and absolute command of 
these troops, to send a special message asking 
Meade to make that distinct announcement to 
Sheridan. (Despatch of 10.34 P-M-» March 31st.) 
To this Meade replies that he had ordered the 
Fifth Corps to Sheridan, and adds: "The messenger 
to Sheridan has gone now, so that I cannot add 
what you desire about his taking command, but 
I take it for granted he will do so, as he is senior. 
I will instruct Warren to report to him." 

So General Grant's solicitude lest Sheridan should 
forget to assume command, as the regulations 
clearly provided, was faithfully ministered to by 
that expert in nervous diseases, — Meade. 

The orders which came to General Warren that 
night were to an amazing degree confused and con- 
flicting. This is charging no blame on any par- 
ticular person. We will call it, if you please, the 
fault of circumstances. But of course many evil 
effects of such conditions must naturally fall upon 
the officer receiving them. Although the responsi- 
bility according to military usage and ethics 
rests upon the officer originating the order, yet the 
practical effects are apt to fall upon the officer 
trying to execute it. And when he is not allowed 
to use his judgment as to the details of his own 

100 The Passing of the Armies 

command, it makes it very hard for him sometimes. 
Indeed it is not very pleasant to be a subordinate 
officer, especially if one is also at the same time 
a commanding officer. 

But in this case I think the trouble was the 
result of other recognizable contributory circum- 
stances, — if I might not say causes. 

1. The awkwardness of having in the field so 
many superior, or rather co-ordinate, commanders : 
Grant, commanding the United States Armies, 
with his headquarters immediately with those of 
the commander of the Army of the Potomac; un- 
intentionally but necessarily confusing authority 
and detracting from the dignity and independence 
of this subordinate; Meade, commanding the 
Army of the Potomac, only two corps of which 
were with him, — and one of these half the time 
under Sheridan, — the two others being on the 
extreme right of our entrenched lines, with Ord 
and the Army of the James between them; Sheri- 
dan, maintaining an independent cavalry command, 
but in such ticklish touch with the Fifth Corps 
that it hardly knew from moment to moment 
whether it was under Meade or Sheridan. 

2. A double objective: one point being Sheri- 
dan's independent operations to cut the enemy's 
communications; the other, the turning of Lee's 
right and brealdng up his army by our infantry. 
It is true this double objective was in terms given 
up when Sheridan was informed all were to "act 
together as one army"; but the trouble is, this 
precept was never strictly carried into effect; inas- 

The White Oak Road loi 

much as General Sheridan was not inclined to 
serve under any other commander but Grant, and 
it became difficult to humor him in this without 
embarrassing other operations. And, as a matter 
of fact, the communications were not cut, either 
on the Southside or the Danville Roads, until our 
infantry struck them, — Sheridan, however, con- 
tributing in his own way to this result. 

3. These two supreme commanders being at 
such distance from the fields of operation on the 
31st of March, that it was impossible to have a 
complete mutual understanding at the minute 
when orders were to be put into effect. Nor could 
they make themselves alike familiar with material 
conditions, such as grounds and bridges, or with 
the existing state of things at important junctures, 
owing to rapid, unforeseen changes. 

4. Time lost, and sequence confused, by the 
difficulty of getting over the grotind to carry orders 
or to obey them, owing to the condition of the 
roads, or lack of them, and the extreme darkness 
of the night. 

We had very able officers of the general staff 
at each headquarters; otherwise things might 
have been worse. The responsibilities, labors, 
tests, and perils — physical and moral — that often 
fall upon staff officers in the field are great and 
trying. Upon their intelligence, alertness, accu- 
racy of observation and report, their promptitude, 
energy, and endurance, the fate of a corps or a field 
may depend. 

The frictions, mischances, and misunderstand- 

102 The Passine of the Armies 


ings of all these circumstances falling across 
Warren's path, might well have bewildered the 
brightest mind, and rendered nugatory the most 
faithful intentions. 

Meantime, it may well be conceived we who held 
that extreme front line had an anxious night. 
Griffin was with me most of the time, and in in- 
vestigating the state of things in front of our 
picket lines some time after midnight, we discov- 
ered that the enemy were carefully putting out 
their fires all along their own visible front. Griffin 
regards this as evidence of a contemplated move- 
ment on us, and he sends this information and 
suggestion to headquarters, and thus adds a new 
element to the already well-shaken mixture of 
uncertainty and seeming cross-purposes. But with 
us, the chief result was an anxiety that forbade a 
moment's relaxation from intense vigilance. 

Meantime Ayres had kept on, according to 
Warren's first orders to him, getting a small in- 
stallment of rations on the way, and arriving at 
Warren's "Bridge of Sighs" on the Gravelly Run 
just as it was ready, at about two o'clock in the 
morning, whence he pushed down the Plank Road 
and reported to Sheridan before Dinwiddle at the 
dawning of day. Whereupon he was informed 
that he had advanced two miles farther than 
General Sheridan desired, and he had to face about 
his exhausted men and go back to a cross-road 
which he had passed for the very sufficient reason 
that Sheridan had no staff-officer there to guide 
him where he was wanted. 

The White Oak Road 103 

At three o'clock I had got in my pickets, which 
were replaced by Crawford's, and let my men rest 
as quietly as possible, knowing there wotild be 
heavy burdens laid on them in the morning. For, 
while dividing the sporadic mule-rations, word 
came to us that the Fifth Corps, as an organization, 
was to report to Sheridan at once and be placed 
under his orders. We kept our heads and hearts 
as well as we could ; for we thought both would be 
needed. It was near daylight when my command 
— all there was of Griffin's Division then left on 
the front — drew out from the White Oak Road; 
Crawford's Division replacing us, to be brought off 
carefully under Warren's eye. We shortly picked 
up Bartlett's returning brigade, halted, way-worn 
and jaded with marching and countermarching, 
and struck off in the direction of the Boisseau 
houses and the Crump Road, following their heavy 
tracks in the mud and mire marking a way where 
before there was none; one of those recommended 
"directions across the country," which this veteran 
brigade found itself thus compelled to travel for 
the third time in lieu of rest or rations, churning 
the sloughs and quicksands with emotions and 
expressions that could be conjectured only by a 
veteran of the Old Testament dispensation. 

I moved with much caution in approaching 
doubtful vicinities, throwing forward an advance 
guard which, as we expected to encounter the 
enemy in force, I held immediately in my own hand. 
Griffin followed at the head of my leading brigade, 
ready for whatever should happen. Arrived at 

104 The Passing of the Armies 

the banks of the south branch of Gravelly Run, 
where Bartlett had made his dispositions the night 
before, from a mile in our front the glitter of ad- 
vancing cavalry caught my eye, saber-scabbards 
and belt-brasses flashing back the level rays of the 
rising sun. Believing this to be nothing else than 
the rebel cavalry we expected to find somewhere 
before us, we made dispositions for instant attack. 
But the steady on-coming soon revealed the blue 
of our own cavalry, with Sheridan's weird battle- 
flag in the van. I reduce my front, get into the 
road again, and hardly less anxious than before 
move forward to meet Sheridan. 

We come face to face. The sunlight helps out 
the expression of each a little. I salute: "I report 
to you, General, with the head of Griffin's Divi- 
sion." The courteous recognition is given. Then 
the stern word, more charge than question: "Why 
did you not come before? Where is Warren?" — • 
"He is at the rear of the column, sir." — "That is 
where I expected to find him. What is he doing 
there?" — "General, we are withdrawing from the 
White Oak Road, where we fought all day. General 
Warren is bringing off his last division, expecting 
an attack." Griffin comes up. My responsibility 
is at an end. I feel better. I am directed to mass 
my troops by the roadside. We are not sorry for 
that. Ayres soon comes up on the Brooks 
Road. Crawford arrives at length, and masses 
his troops also, near the J. Boisseau house, at the 
junction of the Five Forks Road. We were on 
the ground the enemy had occupied the evening 

The White Oak Road 105 

before. It was Bartlett's outstretched line in their 
rear, magnified by the magic lens of night into the 
semblance of the whole Fifth Corps right upon 
them, which induced them to withdraw from 
Sheridan's front and fall back upon Five Forks/ 
So after all Bartlett had as good as fought a success- 
ful battle, by a movement which might have been 
praised as Napoleonic had other fortunes favored. 
General Warren has been blamed, and perhaps 
justly, for attacking with a single division on the 
White Oak Road. As he denies that he intended 
this for an attack, we will put it that he is blamed 
for not sufficiently supporting a reconnaissance; 
so that the repulse of it involved the disorderly 
retreat of two divisions of his corps. It is to be 
said to this that he very shortly more than recov- 
ered this ground, driving the enemy with serious 
loss into his works. But at the worst, was that a 
fault hitherto unknown among corps or army 
commanders? Sheridan attacked with a single 
division when he was ordered to take Five Forks 
on the day before, and was driven back by a force 
very inferior to that he had in hand. He was not 
blamed, although the result of this failure was the 
next day's dire misfortunes. And on this very 
day, driven back discomfited into Dinwiddle, he 
was not blamed; he was praised, — and in this high 
fashion. General Grant in his official report and 
subsequent histories, speaking of this repulse, says : 
"Here General Sheridan displayed great general- 

' Testimony of General Fitzhugh Lee, Warren Court, vol. i., pp. 475 and 

io6 The Passing of the Armies 

ship. Instead of retreating with his whole com- 
mand on the main army, to tell the story of superior 
forces encountered, he deployed his cavalry on 
foot, leaving only mounted men enough to take 
charge of the horses. This compelled the enemy 
to deploy over a vast extent of wooded and broken 
country and made his progress slow." 

This definition of great generalship was intended, 
no doubt, to reassure Sheridan; but it was en- 
couraging all around. It would let quite a number 
of modest colonels, of both sides, into the temple 
of fame. 

Warren was deposed from his command the 
next day, mainly, I have no doubt, under the irri- 
tation at his being slow in getting up to Sheridan 
the night before from the White Oak Road. But 
he was working and fighting all day to hold the 
advanced left flank of Grant's chosen position, 
and harassed all night with conflicting and stulti- 
fying orders, while held between two threatening 
forces: his left, with nothing to prevent Lee's choice 
troops disengaged from Sheridan from striking it 
a crushing blow; and on the other hand, Lee him- 
self in person, evidently regarding this the vital 
point, with all the troops he could gather there, 
ready to deliver on that little front a mortal stroke. 
For it is not true, as has been stated by high author- 
ity, that any troops that had fought us on the 
White Oak Road had gone to Pickett's support at 
Five Forks that day. And when in the gray of 
the morning he moved out to receive Sheridan's 
not overgracious welcome to the Fifth Corps, 

The White Oak Road 107 

Warren withdrew under the very eyes of Lee, his 
rear division faced by the rear rank, ready for the 
not-improbable attack, himself the last to leave 
the field that might have been so glorious, now 
fated to be forgotten. 

I enliven this somber story by a brief personal 
reference. Somehow — I never quite understood 
it — General Griffin, in the confusion of that dash- 
ing and leaping about, lost his sword — scabbard 
and all. Seeing him ride up to me in that way, I 
instantly unhooked my belt and sheathing my 
sword handed it to the General with the assurance 
that I should be proud if he would accept it, as a 
token of what I could not then fully set forth in 
words. He did accept it and outdid me in the 
expression of sentiments. One of the noble cap- 
tains (Rehfuss) of the 198th Pennsylvania instantly 
handed me one that lay on the line we had carried, 
— I should say, perhaps, he had carried, — and 
which was a fine sword with a "Palmetto" en- 
graved scabbard. I took it until our muster out, 
when I returned it to Captain Rehfuss, with words 
of remembrance which he seemed to appreciate. 

This sword of mine has a peculiar history since 
that time. General Griffin at the close of the war 
was ordered to a command in Texas, and took 
this sword with him. Here the yellow fever break- 
ing out he was advised by the War Department to 
take a leave of absence and return to his home for 
a season. He declined; saying that his duty was 
where his command was, and that he would stay 
by his men. He took the fever and died before 

io8 The Passing of the Armies 

friends could reach him. Sometime afterwards I 
received through the War Department a box con- 
taining this sword and General Griffin's cap worn 
by him in the Civil War, and familiar to all his 
soldiers, together with the last division battle- 
flag we carried in the field, and the division bugle, 
which had sounded all the calls during the last two 
years of the war. I could not express the regard 
in which these relics are held. 

It may be prestimption to offer opinions on the 
operations of that day under such commanders. 
But having ventured some statements of fact that 
seem like criticism, it may be required of me to 
suggest what better could have been done, or to 
show reason why that which was done was not the 
best. I submit therefore, the following remarks: 

1. Five Forks should have been occupied on 
the thirtieth as Grant had ordered, and when there 
was nothing formidable to oppose. The cavalry 
could then easily strike the Southside Railroad, 
and the Fifth and Second Corps be extended to 
envelop the entire right of the enemy's position, 
and at the opportune moment the general assault 
could be successfully made, as Grant had contem- 
plated when he formed his purpose of acting as 
one army with all his forces in the field. 

2. This plan failing, there were two openings 
promising good results: one, to let the cavalry 
linger about Dinwiddle and threaten Lee's com- 
munications, so as to draw out a large body of his 
troops from the entrenchments into the open 
where they could be attacked on equal ground, 

The White Oak Road 109 

and his army be at least materially crippled; the 
other, to direct the assault immediately on the 
right of Lee's entrenched lines on the Fifth Corps 
front, — the cavalry, of course, sweeping around 
their flank so as to take them in reverse, while 
the infantry concentrated on their weakest point. 

A third thing was to do a little of both ; and this 
is what we seem to have adopted, playing from 
one to the other, fitfully and indecisively, more 
than one day and night. 

Beyond doubt it was Grant's plan when he 
formed his new .purpose on the night of the twenty- 
ninth, to turn the enemy on their Claiborne flank, 
and follow this up sharply by vigorous assault on 
the weakest point of their main line in front of 
Petersburg. The positions taken up by the Fifth 
and Second Corps are explained by such a ptu^pose, 
and the trying tasks and hard fighting required 
of them for the first three days are therein justified. 
The evidence of this purpose is ample. 

Everything was made ready, but the attack was 
suspended. I am not upon the inquiry whether 
this was postponed until Sheridan should have 
done something; my point is that if, or when, this 
purpose was abandoned for another line of action, 
other dispositions should have been promptly 
made, and information given to officers charged 
with responsibilities, and environed with difficul- 
ties as Warren was, so that they could catch the 
change of key. Grant had set the machinery in 
motion for the White Oak Road, and it was hard 
and slow work to reverse it when he suddenly 

no The Passing of the Armies 

changed his tactics, and resolved to concentrate 
on Sheridan. Why was the Fifth Corps advanced 
after Ayres' repulse? The "reconnaissance" had 
been made ; the enemy's position and strength ascer- 
tained, and our party had returned to the main 
line. There was no justification in pressing so 
hard on that point of the White Oak Road, at 
such costs, unless we meant to follow up this at- 
tack to distinct and final results. This may pos- 
sibly be laid to Warren's charge in his anxiety and 
agony to "save the honor of the Fifth Corps." 
But this was not essential to the grander tactics 
of the field. I sometimes blame myself, — if I may 
presume to exalt myself into such high company, — 
for going beyond the actual recovery of Ayres' 
lost field, and pressing on for the White Oak Road, 
when it was not readily permitted me to do so. 
It may be that my too youthful impetuosity about 
the White Oak Road got Warren into this false 
position across this road, where all night, possessed 
with seven devils, we tried to get down to Sheridan 
and Five Forks. But I verily believed that what 
we wanted was the enemy's right, on the White 
Oak Road. How could we then know Grant's 
change of purpose? However, it was all a mistake 
if we were going to abandon everything before 
morning. We should have been withdrawn at 
once, and put in position for the new demonstra- 
tion. That order to mass on the Boydton Road, 
received at about ten o'clock at night, should have 
been given much earlier, as soon as we could 
safely move away from the presence of the enemy, 

The White Oak Road iii 

if we were to reinforce Sheridan on his own 

3. But better than this, as things were, it 
would have been to leave a small force on the White 
Oak Road to occupy the enemy's attention, and 
move the whole Fifth Corps to attack the rear of 
the enemy then confronting Sheridan, as Meade 
suggested to Grant at ten o'clock at night. It 
would have been as easy for us all to go, as for 
Bartlett. With such force we would not have 
stopped on Gravelly Run, but would have struck 
Pickett's and Fitzhugh Lee's rear, and compelled 
them to make a bivouac under our supervision 
on that ground where they had ' * deployed. ' ' They 
would not have been able to retire in the morning, 
as they were constrained to do by Bartlett's 

4. No doubt it was right to save the honor of 
the cavalry before Dinwiddle, as of the Fifth Corps 
before the White Oak Road; and Sheridan's with- 
drawal to that place having lured out so large a 
force — six thousand infantry and four thousand 
cavalry — from a good military position to the 
exposed one at Five Forks, it was good tactics to 
fall upon them and smash them up. Lee, strangely 
enough, did not think we would do this; so he held 
himself at the right of his main line on the White 
Oak Road, as the point requiring his presence; 
and sent reinforcements from there for his im- 
periled detachment only so late that they did not 
report until after the struggle at Five Forks was 
all over. 

112 The Passing of the Armies 

But we owe much to fortune. Had the enemy 
on the afternoon of the 31st let Fitzhugh Lee with 
his cavalry reinforcements occupy Sheridan, and 
rushed Pickett's Division with the two brigades 
of Johnson's down the White Oak Road upon the 
flank of the momentarily demoralized Fifth Corps, 
while Hunton and Gracie and Wallace and Wise 
were on its front, we should have had trouble. 
Or had they, after repulsing Sheridan towards 
evening, left the cavalry deployed across his front 
to baffle his observation, while Pickett should an- 
ticipate and forestall the movement of Bartlett's 
Brigade, and come across conversely from that 
Crump Road to fall upon oiu- untenable flank posi- 
tion, it would have opened all eyes to the weakness 
and error of our whole situation. What would 
have become of us, only some higher power than 
any there could say. 

So we part, after this strangely broken acquaint- 
ance, — Sheridan, the Fifth Corps, and White Oak 
Road. Whether the interventions that brought 
intended purposes and effects to nought were 
through the agency of supernal or infernal spirits, 
we must believe that it was by one of those 
mysterious overrulings of Providence, or what 
some might call poetic justice, and some the irony 
of history, that it befell Sheridan to have v/ith him 
at Five Forks and at Appomattox Court House — 
not slow nor inconspicuous — the deprecated, but 
inexpugnable, old Fifth Corps. 



AFTER such a day and night as that of the 
31st of March, 1865, the morning of April ist 
found the men of the Fifth Corps strangely 
glad they were alive. They had experienced 
«i kaleidoscopic regeneration. They were ready 
for the next new turn — whether of Fortunatus or 
Torquemada. The tests of ordinary probation 
had been passed. All the effects of "humiliation, 
fasting, and prayer," believed to sink the body and 
exalt the spirit, had been fully wrought in them. 
At the weird midnight trumpet-call they rose from 
their sepulchral fields as those over whom death 
no longer has any power. Their pulling out for 
the march in the ghostly mists of dawn looked like 
a passage in the transmigration of souls — not sent 
back to work out the remnant of their sins as 
animals, but lifted to the "third plane" by those 
three days of the underworld, — eliminating sense, 
incorporating soul. 

The vicissitudes of that day, and the grave and 
whimsical experiences out of which we emerged 
into it, exhibited the play of that curious law of 

8 113 

114 The Passinc^ of the Armies 

the universe seen in tides, reactions, or reversals 
of polarities at certain points of tension or extremes 
of pressure, and which appears also in the mixed 
relations of men and things. There are pressure- 
points of experience at which the insupportably 
disagreeable becomes "a jolly good time." When 
you cannot move in the line of least resistance, you 
take a very peculiar pleasure in crowding the point 
of greatest resistance. No doubt there is in the 
ultimate reasons of human probation special place 
for that quality of manhood called perseverance, 
patience, pluck, push, persistence, pertinacity, 
or whatever name beginning with this "explosiv(3 
mute," the excess of which, exhibited by persons 
or things, is somewhat profanely referred to as 
"pure cussedness." 

The pleasantries associated with April ist were 
not much put in play : none of those men were going 
to be "fooled" that day. 

When we joined the cavalry, some of us were 
aware of a little shadow cast between the two chief 
luminaries, — him of the cavalry and him of the 
infantry; but that by no means darkened our disks. 
If not hale fellows, we were well met. The two 
arms of the service embraced each other heartily, 
glad to share fortunes. Particularly we; for the 
cavalry had the habit of being a little ahead, and 
so, as the Germans said, "got all the pullets." 
And we thought the cavalry, though a little piqued 
at our not going down and picking up what they 
had left at Dinwiddie the night before, were quite 
willing we should share whatever they should get 

Five Forks 115 

to-day. Sheridan had also come to the opinion 
that infantry was "a good thing to have around," 
— however by some queer break in the hierarchy 
of honor subordinated to the chevaHers, the biped 
to the quadruped, and by some freak of etymology 
named "infantry" — the speechless — ^whether be- 
cause they had nothing to answer for, or knew 
too much and mustn't tell. We were glad to be 
united to Sheridan, too, after the broken engage- 
ments of the day before, perhaps renewed reluc- 
tantly by him; glad to fight under him, instead of 
away from him, hoping that when he really struck, 
the enemy would hurt more than friends. 

We cannot wonder that Sheridan might not be 
in the best of humor that morning. It is not 
pleasant for a temperament like his to experience 
the contradiction of having the ardent expectations 
of himself and his superior turned into disaster and 
retreat. It was but natural that he should be 
incensed against Warren. For not deeply im- 
pressed with the recollection that he had found 
himself unable to go to the assistance of Warren 
as he had been ordered to do, his mind retained 
the irritation of vainly expecting assistance from 
Warren the moment he desired it, without consider- 
ing what Warren might have on hand at the same 
time. Nor could Warren be expected to be in a 
very exuberant mood after such a day and night. 
Hence the auguries for the cup of loving-kindness 
on this crowning day of Five Forks were not 
favorable. Each of them was under the shadow 
of yesterday: one, of a mortifying repulse; the 

ii6 The Passing of the Armies 

other, of thankless success. Were Warren a mind- 
reader he would have known it was a time to put 
on a warmer manner towards Sheridan, — for a 
voice of doom was in the air. 

That morning, two hours after the head of the 
Fifth Corps column had reported to General Sheri- 
dan, an officer of the artillery staff had occasion 
to find where the Fifth Corps was, evidently not 
knowing that under orders from superiors it had 
been like "all Gaul," divided into three parts, — 
and went for that purpose to the point where 
Warren had had his headquarters the night before. 
Warren, in leaving at daybreak, had not removed 
his headquarters' material; but in consideration 
for his staff, who had been on severe duty all 
night, told Colonel Locke, Captain Melcher, and a 
few others to stay and take a little rest before 
resuming the tasking duties of the coming day. 
It was about nine o'clock in the morning when the 
artillery officer reached Warren's old headquarters, 
and suddenly rousing Colonel Locke asked where 
the Fifth Corps was. Locke, so abruptly wakened, 
his sound sleep bridging the break of his last 
night's consciousness, rubbed his eyes, and with 
dazed simplicity answered that when he went to 
sleep the Fifth Corps was halted to build a bridge 
at Gravelly Run on the Plank Road. No time 
was lost in reporting this at headquarters, without 
making further inquiries as to the whereabouts of 
the Fifth Corps, now for three hours with Sheri- 
dan on the Five Forks Road. Thereupon General 
Grant forthwith sends General Babcock to tell 

Five Forks 117 

General Sheridan that "if he had any reason to be 
dissatisfied with General Warren," or as it has 
since been put, "if in his opinion the interests of 
the service gave occasion for it," he might relieve 
him from command of his corps. ^ 

" So do we walk amidst the precipices of our fate." 

Griffin's and Crawford's Divisions were massed 
near the house of J. Boisseau, on the road leading 
from Dinwiddle Court House to Five Forks. Ayres 
was halted a mile back at the junction of the Brooks 
Road, which he had reached by his roundabout, 
forced march during the night. We were waiting 
for Sheridan, at last. And he was waiting until 
the cavalry should complete one more "reconnois- 
sance," to determine the enemy's position and 
disposition at Five Forks, three miles northward. 

Although the trains which had got up were 
chiefly ammimition wagons, a considerable halt 
was indicated and the men seized the occasion to 
eat, to rest, to sleep, — exercises they had not much 
indulged in for the last three days, — and to make 

' Records, Warren Court, testimony of Captain Warner, p. 38 ; of 
General Babcock, p. 901; also of General Sheridan, p. 93; and General 
Grant, p. 1028. 

General Grant afterwards stated that although this information about 
the bridge was the occasion, it was not the reason, of his authorization 
of General Sheridan to depose General Warren from his command. 
Ibid., p. 1030. 

That bridge — for a non-existent one — had a strange potency. Con- 
sidering how various were the tests of which it was made the instrument, 
it well rivals that other "pons asinorum" of Euclid; and certainly the 
associated triangle was of surpassing attributes; for the squares de- 
scribed on the two "legs" of it were far more than equal to that so 
laboriously executed on its hypothenuse. 

ii8 The Passing of the Armies 

their toilets, which means to wring out their few 
articles of clothing, seriatim, and let the sun shine 
into the bottom of their shoes; and also — ^those 
who could — to make up their vital equation of 
three days' rations — ^hard-tack, pork, coffee, and 
sugar — ^by stuffing their haversacks with twenty 
rounds extra ammunition. 

Meantime those of us who were likely to have 
some special responsibilities during the approach- 
ing battle, had anxious thoughts. We had drawn 
away from the doubly confused conflict of yester- 
day; we were now fairly with Sheridan, cut off 
from reach of other wills, absolved from the task 
of obeying commands that made our action seem 
like truants driving hoops, — resulting mostly in 
tripping up dignitaries, and having a pretty hard 
time ourselves, without paternal consolations when 
we got home. We expected something out of the 
common order now. General Griffin came and 
sat by me on the bank-side and talked quite freely. 
He said Sheridan was much disturbed at the opera- 
tions of the day before, as Grant's language to him 
about this had been unwontedly severe, and that 
all of us woiild have to help make up for that day's 
damage. "^ 

' This was in a despatch sent by Grant to Sheridan at about 2 
P.M. on the 31st of March, just as I was advancing, after Ay res' 
repulse. This read: " Warren's and Miles' Divisions are now advancing. 
I hope your cavalry is up where it will be of assistance. Let me know 
how matters stand now with the cavalry; where they are; what their 
orders, etc. If it had been possible to have had a division or two of them 
well up on the right-hand road taken by Merritt yesterday, they could 
have fallen on the enemy's rear as they were pursuing Ayres and Craw- 
ford." — Records, Warren Court, p. 13 13. 

Five Forks 119 

He told me also that Grant had given Sheridan 
authority to remove Warren from command of the 
corps, when he found occasion, and that we should 
see lively times before the day was over. We 
remarked how these things must affect Sheridan: 
Grant's censure of his failures the day before; the 
obligation to win a decisive battle to-day ; and the 
power put in his hands to remove Warren. We 
could not but sympathize with Sheridan in his 
present perplexities, and, anxious for Warren, 
were resolved to do our part to make things go 
right. ^ 

' The mental attitude of the parties concerned will be understood by 
reference to the despatches of the Hon. Charles A. Dana to the War 
Office during the previous summer. They were doubtless known to 
Sheridan, as to the higher officers of the Fifth Corps. Those of May 9th 
and I2th, 1864, referring to Warren's movements as slow and piecemeal, 
so as to fail of the desired effect in the plans of the general commanding 
the army. He accuses him of not handling his corps in a mass, and even 
impUes a positive disobedience of orders on his part in attacking with a 
division when ordered by Grant to attack with his whole corps. (Serial 
No. 67, pp. 64, 68.) 

Still the Fifth Corps "got in" enough to lose ten thousand six hundred 
and eighty-six men in the first two fights. (Dana's report, War Records, 
Serial 64, p. 71.) 

Even more light is turned on. For no despatch of Dana's concerning 
Warren compares in severity with Dana's to the Secretary of War, 
July 7, 1864, denouncing General Meade, and advising that he be re- 
moved from the command of the army. (Serial No. 80, p. 35.) 

It now appears that Warren was in great disfavor with Meade also, 
after arriving before Petersburg. Meade called upon Warren to ask to 
be relieved from command of his corps on the alternative that charges 
would be preferred against him. (Dana's despatch, June 20, 1864, War 
Records, Serial No. 80, p. 26.) 

Meade was much displeased, too, with Warren for his characteristic 
remark to the effect that no proper superior commanding officer was 
present at the time of the Mine explosion, to take control of the whole 

And now, with Sheridan against him, poor Warren may well have 

120 The Passing of the Armies 

The troops had enjoyed about four hours of this 
unwonted rest when, the cavalry having completed 
its reconnoissance, we were ordered forward. We 
turned off on a narrow road said to lead pretty 
nearly to the left of the enemy's defenses at Five 
Forks on the White Oak Road. Crawford led, 
followed by Griffin and Ayres, — the natural order 
for prompt and free movement. The road had 
been much cut up by repeated scurries of both the 
contending parties, and was even yet obstructed 
by cavalry led horses, and other obstacles, which 
it woiild seem strange had not been got off the 
track during all this halt. We who were trying to 
follow closely were brought to frequent standstill. 
This was vexatious, — our men being hurried to 
their feet in heavy marching order, carrying on 
their backs perhaps three days' life for themselves 
and a pretty heavy installment of death for their 
antagonists, and now compelled every few minutes 
to come to a huddled halt in the muddy road, 
"marking time" and marking place also with deep 
discontent. In about two hours we get up where 
Sheridan wants us, in some open ground and thin 
woods near the Gravelly Run Church, and form as 
we arrive, by brigades in column of regiments. The 
men's good nature seems a little ruffled on account 
of their manner of marching or being marched. 
They have their own way of expressing their 
wonder why we could not have taken a shorter 

wished at least for David's faculty of putting his grievances into song, 
with variations on the theme: "Many bulls have compassed me about; 
yea, many strong bulls of Bashan. " 

Five Forks 121 

road to this cavalry rendezvous, rather than to be 
dragged around the two long sides of an acute- 
angled triangle to get to it, — why the two-legged 
animals might not have taken the short route and 
the four-legged ones the long one, — in short, what 
magic relics there were about "J. Boisseau's, " 
that we should be obliged to make a painful 
pilgrimage there before we were purified enough to 
die at Five Forks. 

It is now about four o'clock. Near the church 
is a group of restless forms and grim visages, 
expressing their different tempers and tempera- 
ments in full tone. First of all the chiefs: Sheri- 
dan, dark and tense, walking up and down the 
earth, seeking — well, we will say — some adequate 
vehicle or projectile of expression at the prospect 
of the sun's going down on nothing but his wrath; 
evidently having availed himself of some incidental 
instrumentalities to this end, more or less explicit 
or expletive. Warren is sitting there like a caged 
eagle or rather like a man making desperate effort 
to command himself when he has to obey unwel- 
come orders, — all his moral energies compressed 
into the nerve centers somewhere behind his eyes 
and masked pale cheek and compressed lip. 
Griffin is alert and independent, sincere to the core, 
at his ease, ready for anything, — for a dash at the 
enemy with battery front, or his best friend with 
a bit of satire when his keen sense of the incongru- 
ous or pretentious is struck; Bartlett, with drawn 
face, like a Turkish cimetar, sharp, springy, curved 
outward, damascened by various experience and 

124 The Passing of the Armies 

in the flame and whirl of battle, leading his brigade 
like a demigod, as in a chariot of fire he was lifted 
to his like. 

The corps formation was: Ayres on the left, 
west of the Church Road, the division in double 
brigade front in two lines, and Winthrop with the 
First Brigade in reserve, in rear of his center; 
Crawford on the right, east of the road, in similar 
formation; Griffin in rear of Crawford, with Bart- 
lett's Brigade in double coltimn of regiments, three 
lines deep; my own brigade next, somewhat in 
echelon to the right, with three battalion lines in 
close order, while Gregory at first was held massed 
in my rear. General Mackenzie's cavalry, of the 
Army of the James, had been ordered up from 
Dinwiddle, to cross the White Oak Road and move 
forward with us covering our right flank. Never- 
theless, just as we were moving. General Griffin 
cautioned me: " Don't be too sure about Macken- 
zie; keep a sharp lookout for your own right." 
Accordingly I had Gregory throw out a small 
battalion as skirmishers and flankers, and march 
another regiment by the flank on our right, ready 
to face outwards, and let his other regiment follow 
in my brigade column. 

At four o'clock we moved down the Gravelly 
Run Church Road, our lines as we supposed nearly 
parallel to the White Oak Road, with Ayres 
directed on the angle of the enemy's works. Just 
as we started there came from General Warren a 
copy of a diagram of the proposed movement. 
I was surprised at this. It showed our front of 

Five Forks 125 

movement to be quite oblique to the White Oak 
Road, — as much as half a right angle, — with 
the center of Crawford's Division directed upon 
the angle, and Ayres, of course, thrown far to the 
left, so as to strike the enemy's works halfway 
to Five Forks. Griffin was shown as following 
Crawford; but the whole direction was such that 
all of us would strike the enemy's main line before 
any of us could touch the White Oak Road. The 
diagram, far from clearing my mind, added confu- 
sion to surprise. The order read : "The line will 
move forward as formed till it reaches the White 
Oak Road, when it will swing around to the left, 
perpendicular to the White Oak Road. General 
Merritt's and General Custer's cavalry will charge 
the enemy's line as soon as the infantry get 
engaged." This was perfectly clear. The whole 
corps was to reach the White Oak Road before any 
portion of it should change direction to the left; 
Ayres was to attack the angle, and the rest of us 
swing round and sweep down the entrenchments 
along the White Oak Road. 

The diagram showed the Gravelly Run Church 
Road as leading directly to and past the angle of 
the enemy's works. The formation shown led us 
across the Church Road and not across the White 
Oak Road at all, which at the point of direction 
was behind the enemy's entrenched lines. Accord- 
ing to this, Crawford and not Ayres would strike 
the angle. Ayres would strike the breastworks 
well up toward the cavalry, — quite a way from 
any support Griffin's division could give him. 

126 The Passing of the Armies 

111 at ease in such uncertainty I rode over to 
General Griffin, who with General Warren was 
close on my left at this early stage of the move- 
ment, and asked for an explanation. Griffin 
answers quickly: "We will not worry ourselves 
about diagrams. We are to follow Crawford. 
Circumstances will soon develop our duty." In 
the meantime we were moving right square down 
the Church Road, and not oblique to it as the 
diagram indicated. However, I quieted my mind 
with the reflection that the earth certainly was a 
known quantity, and the enemy susceptible to 
discovery, whatever might be true of roads, dia- 
grams, or understandings. 

Crawford crossed the White Oak Road, his line 
nearly parallel to it, without encountering the 
expected angle. This road, it is to be remarked, 
made a considerable bend northerly at the crossing 
of the Church Road, so that Ayres had not reached 
it when Crawford and even Griffin were across. 
We naturally supposed the angle was still ahead. 
Crawford immediately ran into a sharp fire on 
his right front, which might mean the crisis. I 
had been riding with Griffin on the left of my 
front line, but now hastened over to the right, 
where I found Gregory earnestly carrying out my 
instructions to guard that flank. I caught a 
glimpse of some cavalry in the woods on our right, 
which I judged to be Roberts' North Carolina 
Brigade, that had been picketing the White Oak 
Road, and so kept Gregory on the alert. The 
influence of the sharp skirmish fire on Crawford's 

Five Forks 127 

right tended to draw the men towards it; but I 
used all my efforts to shorten step on the pivot and 
press the wheeling flank, in order to be ready for 
the "swing" to the left. Still, the firing ahead 
kept me dubious. It might mean Fitzhugh Lee's 
cavalry making a demonstration there; but from 
the persistence of it was more likely to mean 
infantry reinforcements sent the enemy from the 
Claiborne entrenchments where we had left them 
the day before. It was afterwards seen how near 
it came to being that. ^ 

It was, in fact, Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry, com- 
manded now by the experienced and able Munford 
who had dismounted his men and posted them at 
the junction of the Church Road and the White 
Oak Road, behind some light rail defenses which 
they had hastily thrown up. From this they were 
being slowly driven by Crawford's advance. We 
crossed the White Oak Road without hearing any- 
thing from Ayres, a circumstance which troubled 
me very much, as our division was supposed to be 
in supporting distance of both Crawford and Ayres. 
It was now apparent that the road-crossing Craw- 
ford had struck was not at the angle of the enemy's 
entrenched line, but at least a gunshot to the east 
of this, — in fact it was a thousand yards away. 

' Wise, Grade, and Hunton's Brigades had been ordered out of the 
Claiborne entrenchments that afternoon to attack the right flank of the 
Fifth Corps; but being obliged to take a roundabout way and getting 
entangled among the streams and marshes north of the White Oak Road, 
they were too late to reach the scene of action until allwas over. ^Records, 
Warren Court, Lee's testimony, p. 473; McGowan's, p. 651; Hunton's, 
p. 626. 

128 The Passing of the Armies 

Mackenzie had crowded off Roberts* cavalry 
towards its right near Burgess' Mill, — this cavalry 
not being under Fitzhugh Lee or Munford but 
taking orders directly from the infantry general 
R. H. Anderson. My orders were in general to 
follow Crawford. 

I had managed, however, to gain towards the 
left until we had fairly got past Crawford's left 
rear. Some firing we had heard in the supposed 
direction of our cavalry, but it did not seem heavier 
than that in Crawford's front. We were moving 
rapidly, and had been out about twenty minutes 
from the church, and perhaps nearly a mile distant, 
when a sudden burst of fire exactly on our left 
roused very definite thoughts. This could only 
be from Ayres' attack. I halted my line and rode 
ahead through the woods to some high, cleared 
ground, the southeastern corner of a large field, 
known as the "Sydnor field," along the opposite 
edge of which I could see strong skirmishing along 
Crawford's front; and turning southerly, looking 
across broken, scrubby ground, could see Ayres' 
troops engaged in a confused whirl of struggling 
groups, with fitful firing. This was about as far 
away, I judged, as Crawford's skirmishing, about 
six hundred yards. The great gap between these 
engagements made me feel that something was 
"all wrong." I was anxious about my duty. 
My superiors were not in sight. Bartlett had 
closely followed Crawford, away to my right. 
But I could see the corps flag in the Sydnor field, 
moving towards Crawford, and on the other side, 

Five Forks 129 

in a ravine half-way to Ayres, I saw the division 
flag. There was Ayres fighting alone, and that 
was not in the program. There was Griffin down 
there ; that was order enough for me, and I took the 
responsibility of looking out for the left instead of 
the right, where my last orders committed me. I 
pulled my brigade out of the woods by the left 
flank, telling Gregory to follow; and, sending to 
Bartlett to let him know what I was doing, pushed 
across a muddy stream and up a rough ravine 
towards Ayres. Half-way up, Griffin came to meet 
me, — never more welcome. He gave the look 
I wanted, and without coming near enough for 
words waved me to follow up to the head of the 
ravine and to attack on my right, along the bank 
where, hidden by brush and scrub, the enemy had a 
line perpendicular to their main one on the White 
Oak Road, and were commencing a slant fire in 
Ayres' direction. Griffin rode past me towards 
Warren and Bartlett. 

At the head of the gully all we had to do was to 
front into line of battle, and scramble up the rough 
brambly steep. The moment we showed our 
heads, we were at close quarters with the enemy. 
We exchanged volleys with good will, and then 
came the rush. Our lines struck each other 
obliquely, like shutting jaws. It was rather an 
awkward movement; for we had to make a series 
of right half-wheels by battalion to meet the fire, 
and all the while gain to the left. Thus we stopped 
that cross-fire on Ayres, who was now lost from 
sight by intervening scrubby woods. The brunt 

130 The Passing of the Armies 

of this first fell on my stalwart 185th New York, 
Colonel Sniper; but Gregory" soon coming in by 
echelon on their right took the edge off that enfilad- 
ing fire. 

Ayres' fitful fire was approaching, and I rode 
over towards it. Somewhere near the angle of the 
"return" I met Sheridan. He had probably seen 
me putting my men in, and hence I escaped censure 
for appearing. Indeed his criticism seemed to be 
that there was not more of me, rather than less. 
"By G — , that's what I want to see!" was his 
greeting, "general officers at the front. Where are 
your general officers?" I replied that I had seen 
General Warren's flag in the big field north of us, 
and that seeing Ayres in a tight place I had come to 
help him, and by General Griffin's order. ' ' Then, ' ' 
cried he, with a vigor of utterance worthy of the 
"army in Flanders," "you take command of all 
the infantry round here, and break this dam — " 
I didn't wait to hear any more. That made good 
grammar as it stood. I didn't stand for anything, 
but spurred back to some scattered groups of men, 
demoralized by being so far in the rear, and not 
far enough to do them any good, yet too brave to 
go back. Captain Laughlin of Griffin's staff came 
along, and I took him with me down among these 
men to get them up. I found one stalwart fellow 
on his hands and knees behind a stump, answering 
with whimsical grimaces to the bullets coming 
pretty thick and near. "Look here, my good fel- 

' His regiments were the 187th, i88th, and 189th New York; thus the 
four New York regiments constituted the right of my command. 

Five Forks 131 

low," I called down to him, "don't you know you'll 
be killed here in less than two minutes? This is 
no place for you. Go forward!" "But what can 
I do?" he cried; "I can't stand up against all this 
alone!" "No, that's just it," I replied. "We're 
forming here. I want you for guide center. Up, 
and forward!" Up and out he came like a hero. 
I formed those "reserves" on him as guide, and 
the whole queer line — two hundred of them — went 
in right up to the front and the thick of it. My 
poor fellow only wanted a token of confidence and 
appreciation to get possession of himself. He was 
proud of what he did, and so I was for him. 

I let the staff officers take these men in, for I had 
caught sight of Ayres' Third Brigade coming out 
of the woods right behind me, and standing in the 
further edge of the scrubby field. The men were 
much excited, but were making a good line. 
General Gwyn was riding up and down their front 
in a demonstrative manner, but giving no sign of 
forward movement. I thought this strange for him 
and bad for us all, in the pinch things then were 
at, and with the warrant Sheridan had given me 
galloped down to him and asked him if he was 
acting under any particular orders from General 
Ayres. "No, General," he repHed with an air of 
relief, "I have lost Ayres. I have no orders. I 
don't know what to do." "Then come with me, " 
I said; "I will take the responsibility. You shall 
have all credit. Let me take your brigade for a 
moment!" His men gave me good greeting as 
I rode down their front and gave the order, "For- 

132 The Passinof of the Armies 


ward, right oblique!" On they came, and in they 
went, gallantly, gladly, just when and where they 
were needed, with my own brigade fighting the 
"return," and ready to take touch with Ayres. 
His fire was advancing rapidly on my left, and I 
rode over to meet him. Sheridan was by my side 
in a moment, very angry. "You are firing into my 
cavalry!" he exclaims, his face darkening with a 
checked expletive. I was under a little pressure, 
too, and put on a bold air. "Then the cavalry 
have got into the rebels' place. One of us will have 
to get out of the way. What will you have us do, 
General?" "Don't you fire into my cavalry, I tell 
you!" was the fierce rejoinder. I felt a little left 
out in the cold by General Sheridan's calling 
them "my cavalry," as if we were aliens and did 
not belong to him also; but, whosesoever they were, 
I could not see what business they had up here at 
the "angle." This was our part of the field. The 
plan of the battle put them at the enemy's right 
and center, a mile away on the Dinwiddle Road 
and beyond. 

Fortunately for me, Ayres comes up, his troops 
right upon the angle — the right, the Maryland 
Brigade on the "return" — brave Bowerman 
down — and Winthrop's Brigade — gallant Win- 
throp gone — reaching beyond, across the White 
Oak Road, driving a crowd before them. I have 
only time to say to Ayres, "Gwyn is in on the 
right"; for Sheridan takes him in hand. "I tell 
you again. General Ayres, you are firing into my 
cavalry!" "We are firing at the people who are 

Five Forks 133 

firing at us!" is the quick reply. "These are not 
carbine shot. They are minie-balls. I ought to 

But I felt the point of Sheridan's rebuke. As 
my oblique fire across the "return" was now so 
near the enemy's main line on the White Oak Road, 
it was not unlikely that if any of the cavalry were 
up here on their front, I might be firing into them 
and they into me. There was a worse thing yet: 
if we continued advancing in that direction, in 
another minute we should be catching Ayres' 
fire on oiu* left flank. He was already in, with his 
men. Grifhn, coming up, detains me a moment. 
Sheridan greets him well. "We flanked them 
gloriously!" he exclaims, with a full-charged smile, 
implying that all was not over yet. After a 
minute's crisp remark, Griffin wheels away to the 
right, and I am left with Sheridan. He was sitting 
right in the focus of the fire, on his horse "Rienzi, " 
— ^both about the color of the atmosphere, his 
demon pennon, good or ill, as it might bode, red 
and white, two-starred, aloft just behind him. 
The stream of bullets was pouring so thick it 
crossed my mind that what had been to me a poet's 
phrase — "darkening the air" — was founded on 
dead-level fact. I was troubled for Sheridan. 
We could not afford to lose him. I made bold to 
tell him so, and begged him not to stay there; — 
the rest of us would try to take care of things, 
and from that place he could be spared. He gave 
me a comical look, and answered with a peculiar 
twist in the toss of his head, that seemed to say he 

134 The Passing of the Armies 

didn't care much for himself, or perhaps for me. 
"Yes, I think I'll go!" and away he dashed, right 
down through Ayres' left, down the White Oak 
Road, into that triple cross-fire we had been 
quarreling about. I afterwards learned that 
Sheridan did order his cavalry to cease firing in 
the direction of our advancing infantry. 

I plunged into my business, to make up for this 
minute's lost time. My men were still facing too 
much across Ayres' front, and getting into the 
range of his fire. We had got to change that, 
and swing to the right, down the rear of the 
enemy's main works. It was a whirl. Every way 
was front, and every way was flank. The fighting 
was hand to hand. I was trying to get the three 
angles of the triangle into something like two right 
angles, and had swung my left well forward, open- 
ing quite a gap in that direction, when a large body 
of the enemy came rushing in upon that flank and 
rear. They were in line formation, with arms at 
something like a "ready," which looked like 
"business." I thought it was our turn to be 
caught between two fires, and that these men were 
likely to cut their way through us. Rushing into 
the ranks of my left battalion I shouted the order, 
"Prepare to fire by the rear rank!" My men 
faced about at once, disregarding the enemy in 
front; but at this juncture our portentous visitors 
threw down their muskets, and with hands and 
faces up cried out, "We surrender," running right 
in upon us and almost over us. I was very glad 
of it, though more astonished, for they outnum- 

Five Forks 135 

bered us largely.' I was a little afraid of them, 
too, lest they might find occasion to take arms 
again and revoke the "consent of the governed." 
They were pretty solid commodities, but I was 
very willing to exchange them for paper token of 
indebtedness in the form of a provost-marshal's 
receipt. So getting my own line into shape again, 
I took these well-mannered men, who had been 
standing us so stiff a fight a few minutes before, 
with a small escort out over the "return, " into the 
open field in rear, and turned them over to one of 
Sheridan's staff, with a request for a receipt when 
they were counted.'' 

In the field I find Ayres, who is turning over a 
great lot of prisoners. The "angle" and the 
whole "return" are now carried, but beyond them 
the routed enemy are stubbornly resisting. I have 
time for a word with Ayres now, and to explain my 
taking up Gwyn so sharply. He is not in the mood 
to blame me for anything. He explains also. 
He had been suddenly attacked on his left, and 

' These were Colonel Hutter of the nth Virginia Infantry of Mayo's 
Brigade and part of the 3d Virginia Cavalry dismounted which Mun- 
ford had sent to reinforce Ransom. 

' The receipt sent me bore the whole number of prisoners turned over 
by me during the battle; but most of them were taken in this encounter. 
This acknowledges from my command two colonels, six captains, eleven 
lieutenants, and a thousand and fifty men sent in by my own brigade; 
and four hundred and seventy men by Gregory's. It is not impossible 
that some of these prisoners turned over to General Sheridan's provost 
marshal, may have been counted twice, — with the cavalry captures as 
well as my own. It should be said that the prisoners taken by us were 
due to the efficiency and admirable behavior of all the troops in our part 
of the field near the "angle," and not alone to that of my immediate 

136 The Passing of the Armies 

had been obliged to change front instantly with 
two of his brigades. Their two comnianders, 
Winthrop and Bowerman, falling almost at the 
first stroke, he had taken these brigades in person, 
and put them in, without sending any word to 
Gwyn on his right. I could see how it was. 
Losing connection, Gwyn was at a loss what to 
do, and in the brief time Ay res was routing the 
enemy who had attacked him, I had come upon 
Gwyn and had put him in, really ahead of the 
main line of Ayres, who soon came up to him. So 
it all came about right for Ayres. ' 

General Bartlett now came appealing for assist- 
ance. Two of his regiments had gone off with 
Crawford, and Bartlett had more than he could do 
to make head against a stout resistance the enemy 
were making on a second line turned back near the 
Ford Road. I helped him pick up a lot of strag- 
glers and asked Gregory to give him the i88th 
New York for assistance. 

Meanwhile Warren, searching for Crawford, 
had come upon his First Brigade, Kellogg's, and 
had faced it southerly towards the White Oak 

* To complete this reference, I will mention that Brevet Brigadier- 
General Gwyn was colonel of the 11 8th Pennsylvania Volunteers, in 
Griffin's Division, and had been assigned to command one of Ayres' 
Brigades. Not long afterwards I came in command of the division, and, 
a general court-martial being convened, charges were preferred against 
Gwyn by some who did not understand the facts of this occurrence as 
well as I did. When the papers reached me, I disapproved them and 
sent them back with the endorsement that General Gwyn had done his 
best under peculiarly perplexing circumstances, and had gone in with 
his brigade handsomely, under my own eye at a critical moment of the 
battle. I believed this to be justice to a brave officer. 

Five Forks 137 

Road, as a guide for a new point of direction for 
that division, and had then gone off in search of 
the rest of these troops to bring them in on the 
line. Thereupon one of Sheridan's staff officers 
came across Kellogg standing there, and naturally 
ordered him to go forward into the "fight." 
Kellogg questioned his authority, and warm words 
took the place of other action, till at length Kellogg 
concluded it best to obey Sheridan's representative, 
and moved promptly forward, striking somewhere 
beyond the left of the enemy's refused new flank. 
It seems also that Crawford's Third Brigade, 
Coulter's, which was in his rear line, had antici- 
pated orders or got Warren's, and moved by the 
shortest line in the direction Kellogg was taking. 
So Crawford himself was on the extreme wheeling 
flank, with only Baxter's Brigade and two regi- 
ments of Bartlett's of the First Division immedi- 
ately in hand. His brigades were now moving in 
echelon by the left, which was in fact about the 
order of movement originally prescribed, and that 
which the whole corps actually took up, auto- 
matically as it were, or by force of the situation. 
Our commands were queerly mixed; men of every 
division of the corps came within my jurisdiction, 
and something like this was probably the case 
with several other commanders. But that made 
no difference; men and officers were good friends. 
There was no jealousy among us subordinate 
commanders. We had eaten salt together when 
we had not much else. This liveliness of mutual 
interest and support, I may remark, is sometimes 

138 The Passing of the Armies 

of great importance in the developments of a 

The hardest hold-up was in front of my left 
center, the First Battalion of the 198th Pennsyl- 
vania. I rode up to the gallant Glenn, command- 
ing it, and said, "Major Glenn, if you will break 
that line you shall have a colonel's commission!" 
It was a hasty utterance, and the promise un- 
military, perhaps; but my every energy was 
focused on that moment's issue. Nor did the 
earnest soldier need a personal inducement; he 
was already carrying out the general order to press 
the enemy before him, with as much effect as we 
could reasonably expect. But it was deep in my 
mind how richly he already deserved this promo- 
tion, and I resolved that he should get it now. It 
was this thought and purpose which no doubt 
shaped my phrase, and pardoned it. Glenn 
sprung among his men, calling out, " Boys, will you 
follow me?" wheeled his horse and dashed forward, 
without turning to see who followed. Nor did 
he need. His words were a question; his act an 
order. On the brave fellows go with a cheer into 
the hurricane of fire. Their beautiful flag sways 
gracefully aloft with the spring of the brave youth 
bearing it, lighting the battle-smoke; three times 
it goes down to earth covered in darkening eddies, 
but rises ever again passing from hand to hand 
of dauntless young heroes. Then bullet-torn and 
blood-blazoned it hovers for a moment above a 
breastwork, while the regiment goes over like a 
wave. This I saw from my position to the left of 

Five Forks 139 

them where I was pressing on the rest of my com- 
mand. The sight so wrought upon me that I 
snatched time to ride over and congratulate Glenn 
and his regiment. As I passed into a deeper 
shadow of the woods, I met two men bearing his 
body, the dripping blood marking their path. 
They stopped to tell me. I saw it all too well. 
He had snatched a battle flag from a broken regi- 
ment trying to rally on its colors, when a brute 
bullet of the earth once pronounced good, but 
since cursed for man's sin, struck him down to its 
level. I could stop but a moment, for still on my 
front was rush and turmoil and tragedy. I could 
only bend down over him from the saddle and 
murmur unavailing words. "General, I have 
carried out your wishes!" — this was his only 
utterance. It was as if another bullet had cut me 
through. I almost fell across my saddle-bow. 
My wish? God in heaven, no more my wish than 
thine, that this fair body, still part of the unfallen 
"good," should be smitten to the sod, that this 
spirit born of thine should be quenched by the 
accursed ! 

What dark misgivings searched me as I took the 
import of these words! What sharp sense of 
responsibility for those who have committed to 
them the issues of life and death! Why should I 
not have let this onset take its general course and 
men their natural chances? Why choose out him 
for his death, and so take on myself the awful 
decision into what home irreparable loss and 
measureless desolation should cast their unlifted 

140 The Passing of the Armies 

burden? The crowding thought choked utterance. 
I could only bend my face low to his and answer: 
''Colonel, I will remember my promise; I will 
remember youV and press forward to my place, 
where the crash and crush and agony of struggle 
summoned me to more of the same. War! — 
nothing but the final, infinite good, for man and 
God, can accept and justify human work like 

I feared most of all, I well remember, — such 
hold had this voice on me, — that it might not be 
given me to be found among the living, so that I 
could fulfill my word to him. But divine grace and 
pity granted me this. As soon as the battle was 
over, I sent forward by special messenger my 
recommendation for two brevets for him, in 
recognition of his conspicuous gallantry and great 
service in every battle of this campaign, up to 
this last hour. These were granted at once, and 
Glenn passed from us to other recognition, " Brevet 
Colonel of United States Volunteers, " — and that 
phrase, so costly won, so honorable then, made 
common since, has seemed to me ever after, tame 
and something like travesty.' 

' I sought for him from the Governor of Pennsylvania lineal promo- 
tion in his regiment, though he had but few hours to Hve. But that 
grade was held by an accomplished gentleman detached from his regi- 
ment on office duties in the cities, and there was no place for Glenn. 
The colonel, dear old Sickel, was in hospital with an amputated arm, 
shattered at the Quaker Road three days before. Within that time this 
regiment had now lost in battle colonel, major, and adjutant, and all we 
could secure for the rest of the service, that great regiment of fourteen 
companies, was a major's rank. This, indeed, was worthily bestowed. 
It came to Captain' John Stanton, who after the fall of Sickel and MacEuen 

Five Forks 141 

By this time Warren had found Crawford, who 
with Baxter's Brigade had been pursuing Mun- 
ford's dismounted cavalry all the way from where 
we had crossed the White Oak Road, by a wide 
detour reaching almost to Hatcher's Run, until he 
had crossed the Ford Road, quite in rear of the 
breaking lines which Ransom and Wallace and 
Wood were trying to hold together/ Hence he 
was in position to do them much damage, both by 
cutting off their retreat by the Ford Road and 
taking many prisoners, and also by completing 
the enemy's envelopment. To meet this, the 
enemy, instead of giving up the battle as they 
would have been justified in doing, stripped still 
more their main works in front of otir cavalry by 
detaching nearly the entire brigade of General 
Terry, now commanded by Colonel Mayo, and 
facing it quite to its rear pushed it down the Ford 
Road and across the fields to resist the advance of 
Warren with Crawford. 

We, too, were pressing hard on the Ford Road 
from the east, so that all were crowded into that 
whirlpool of the fight. Just as I reached it, 
Captain Brinton of Griffin's staff dashed up at 

had acted as a field officer with fidelity and honor, and had distinguished 
himself in the struggle for the flag snatched by Glenn with more than 
mortal energy and at mortal cost. 

' To my grief over the costs of this struggle was added now another, 
when, borne past me on the right, came the form of Colonel Farnham of 
the i6th Maine, now on Crawford's stafT, who, sent to bear an order 
into this thickening whirl, was shot through the breast and fell, as we 
thought, mortally wounded, but the courage and fortitude which never 
forsook him carried him through this also. 

142 The Passinor of the Armies 

headlong speed and asked if I knew that Griffin 
was in command of the corps. I was astonished 
at first, and incredulous afterwards. I had heard 
nothing from General Warren since I saw his flag 
away in the Sydnor field when I was breaking out 
from the column of march to go to Ayres' support. 
My first thought was that he was killed. I asked 
Brinton what he meant. He told me the story. 
General Warren, when he got to the rear of the Ford 
Road, sent an enthusiastic message by Colonel 
Locke, his chief of staff, to Sheridan, saying that 
he was in the enemy's rear, cutting off his retreat, 
and had many prisoners. This message met scant 
courtesy. Sheridan's patience was exhausted. 
'' By G — , sir, tell General Warren he wasn't in the 
fight ! " Colonel Locke was thunderstruck. " Must 
I tell General Warren that, sir?" asked he. "Tell 
him that, sir!" came back, the words like hammer- 
blows. " I would not like to take a verbal message 
like that to General Warren. May I take it down 
in writing?" — "Take it down, sir; tell him, by 
G — , he was not at the front!" This was done. 
Locke, the old and only adjutant-general of the 
Fifth Corps, himself just back from a severe wound 
in the face on some desperate front with Warren, 
never felt a blow like that. Soon thereafter Sheri- 
dan came upon General Griffin, and, without pre- 
face or index, told the astonished Griffin, "I put 
you in command of the Fifth Corps!" This was 
Brinton's story; dramatic enough, surely; pathetic 
too. I hardly knew how to take it. I thought 
it possible Sheridan had told every general officer 

Five Forks 143 

he met, as he had told me, to take command of all 
the men he could find on the field and push them 
in. I could not think of Warren being so wide-off 
an exception. 

Pressing down towards the Forks, some of 
Ayres' men mingled with my own, I saw on emerg- 
ing into a little clearing, Sheridan riding beside 
me like an apparition. Yet he was pretty certain 
flesh and blood. I felt a little nervous, not in the 
region of my conscience, nor with any misgiving 
of the day's business, but because I was alone with 
Sheridan. His expression was at its utmost bent; 
intent and content, incarnate will. But he greeted 
me kindly, and spoke freely of the way things had 
been going. We were riding down inside the 
works in the woods covering the Forks and Ford 
Road, now the new focus of the fight. Just then 
an officer rode flightily up from that direction, 
exclaiming to General Sheridan, "We are on the 
enemy's rear, and have got three of their guns." 
" I don't care a d — for their guns, or you either, sir! 
What are you here for? Go back to your business, 
where you belong! What I want is that Southside 
Road." The officer seemed to appreciate the force 
of the suggestion, and the distant attraction of the 
Southside Road. I looked to see what would 
happen to me. There were many men gathered 
round, or rather we had ridden into the midst of 
them, as they stood amazed, at the episode. The 
sun was just in the tree-tops ; it might be the evening 
chill that was creeping over us. Then Sheridan, 
rising in his stirrups, hat in hand waving aloft 

144 The Passino^ of the Armies 

at full arm's length, face black as his horse, and 
both like a storm-king, roared out: "I want you 
men to understand we have a record to make, 
before that sun goes down, that will make hell 
tremble! — I want you there!" I guess they were 
ready to go ; to that place or any other where death 
would find them quickest ; and the sooner they got 
there, the safer for them. 

Griffin came down now from the right, dashed 
ahead of me and jumped his horse over the works. 
I thought myself a pretty good rider, but preferred 
a lower place in the breastworks. My horse saw 
one and made for it. Just as he neared the leap, 
a bullet struck him in the leg, and gave him more 
impetus than I had counted on. But I gave him 
free rein and held myself easy, and over we went, 
and down we came, luckily feet-foremost, almost 
on top of one of the enemy's guns, which we were 
fortunate enough not to "take." In truth the 
gun was so hot from its rapid recent fire that we 
could not bear our hands on it. 

There was a queer "parliament of religions" 
just then and there, at this Five Forks focus. And 
it came in this wise. As Ransom and Wallace 
and Wood's reinforced but wasting lines had fallen 
back before us along the north and east side of their 
works, our cavalry kept up sharp attacks upon 
their right across the works, which by masterly 
courage and skill they managed to repel, replacing 
as best they could the great gaps made in their 
defenses by the withdrawal of so many of Stewart's 
and Terry's Brigades, to form the other sides of 

Five Forks 145 

their retreating "hollow square. " Driven in upon 
themselves, and over much "concentrated," they 
were so penned in there was not a fair chance to 
fight. Just as Ay res' and Grijffin's men struck the 
brave fellows holding on around the guns at the 
Forks, from which Pegram, the gifted young com- 
mander, had been borne away mortally wounded, — 
and spirits as well as bodies were falling, — two 
brigades of our cavalry, Fitzhugh's and Penning- 
ton's of Devins' and Custer's commands, seizing 
the favorable moment, made a splendid dash, dis- 
mounted, over the works in their front, passing 
the guns and joining with our men in pressing back 
the broken ranks scattering through the thick 
woods. Bartlett, also, with some of Crawford's 
men following, came down nearly at the same time 
from the north on the Ford Road. All, therefore, 
centered on the three guns there; so that for a 
moment there was a queer colloquy over the silent 
guns. The cavalry officers say that they captured 
the guns, but Griffin would not let them "take" 
them. Crawford and Bartlett afterwards also 
both report the capture of the guns; but as the 
enemy had abandoned them before these troops 
struck them, the claimants of the capture should 
be content to rank their merits in the order of their 
coming. There were, however, some guns farther 
up the Ford Road, — whether those at first under 
Ransom on the "refused" flank, or those hurried 
from Pegram 's command on the White Oak Road 
to the support of the breaking lines vainly essaying 
to cover the Ford Road. Of the capture of these 

146 The Passing of the Armies 

there is no doubt. These Major West Funk — a 
strange misnomer, but a better name in German 
than in English, showing there is some "sparkle" 
in his blood — actually "took," by personal touch, 
— both ways. First dodging behind trees before 
their canister, then shooting down the horses and 
mules attached to the limbers, as well as the 
gunners who stood by them, his two little regiments 
made a rush for the battery, overwhelmed it, 
unmanned it, and then swept on, leaving the guns 
behind them, making no fuss about it, and so ver}^ 
likely to get no credit for it. This little episode, 
however, was not unobserved by me; for this 
resolute young commander had been a member of 
my personal staff, and these two regiments — the 
12 1st and I42d Pennsylvania, now attached to 
Crawford's Division, were all that was left to us of 
the dear lost old First Corps, and of my splendid 
brigade from it in Griffin's Division, in the ever 
memorable charge of "Fort Hell," June 18, 1864. 

"Taking guns" is a phrase associated with very 
stirring action. But words have a greater range 
than even guns. There is the literal, the legal, 
the moral, the figurative, the poetic, the florid, the 
transcendental. All these atmospheres may give 
meaning and color to a word. But dealing with 
solid fact, there is no more picturesque and thrilling 
sight, no more telling, testing deed, than to "take 
a battery" in front. Plowed through by boom- 
ing shot ; torn by ragged bursts of shell ; riddled by 
blasts of whistling canister; straight ahead to the 
guns hidden in their own smoke ; straight on to the 

Five Forks 147 

red, scorching flame of the muzzles, the giant 
grains of cannon-powder beating, burning, sizzHng 
into the cheek; then in upon them! — pistol to 
rifle-shot, saber to bayonet, musket-butt to hand- 
spike and rammer; the brief frenzy of passion; 
the wild "hurrah!" then the sudden, unearthly 
silence; the ghastly scene; the shadow of death; 
the aureole of glory; much that is telling here, 
but more that cannot be told. Surely it were much 
better if guns must be taken, to take them by flank 
attack, by skillful manoeuvre, by moral suasion, 
by figure of speech, or even by proxy. 

But this is digression, or reminiscence. For the 
matter in hand, the guns taken at the Forks and 
on the Ford Road, with due acknowledgments of 
individual valor, were taken by all the troops who 
closed in around them, front, flank, and rear; 
by the whole movement, indeed, from the brain 
of the brilliant commander who planned, to the 
least man who pressed forward to fulfill his high 

We had pushed the enemy a mile from the left 
of their works — the angle, their tactical center — 
and were now past the Forks. Something re- 
mained to be done, according to Sheridan's 
biblical intimation. But the enemy made no more 
resolute, general stand. Only little groups, held 
back and held together by individual character, 
or the magnetism of some superior officer, made 
front and gave check. For a moment, after the 
deafening din and roar, the woods seemed almost 
given back to nature, save for the clinging smoke 

148 The Passing of the Armies 

and broken bodies and breaking moans which 
betokened man's intervention. 

Our commands were much mixed, but the men 
well moving on, when in this slackening of the 
strain. Griffin and Ayres, who were now riding with 
me, spoke regretfully, sympathizingly, of Warren. 
They thought he had sacrificed himself for Craw- 
ford, who had not proved equal to the demands of 
the situation. "Poor Warren, how he will suffer 
for this!" they said with many variations of the 
theme. Griffin did not say a word about his be- 
ing placed in command of the corps. He was a 
keen observer, a sharp critic, able and prompt to 
use a tactical advantage, but he was not the man 
to take pleasure which cost another's pain, or 
profit from another's loss. It was high promotion, 
gratifying to a soldier's ambition; it was special 
preferment, for he was junior to Crawford. But 
he took it all modestly, like the soldier and man 
he was, thinking more of duty and service than of 

Sheridan came upon us again, bent to his pur- 
pose. "Get together all the men you can," he says, 
"and drive on while you can see your hand before 
you!" The men were widely scattered from their 
proper commanders. Griffin told me to gather the 
men of the First Division and bring them to the 
White Oak Road. Riding along the ground of 
the wide pursuit, I kept my bugler sounding the 
brigade calls of the division. This brought our 
officers and men to the left. Among others. Gen- 
eral Warren came riding slowly from the right. I 

Five Forks 149 

took pains to greet him cheerfully, and explained 
to him why I was sounding all the bugle calls. 
"You are doing just right," he replies, "but I am 
not in command of the corps. " That was the first 
authoritative word I had heard spoken to this 
effect. I told him I had heard so, but that General 
Sheridan had been putting us all in command of 
everything we could get in hand, and perhaps after 
the battle was over we would all get back where we 
belonged. I told him I was now moving forward 
under Sheridan's and Griffin's order, and rode 
away from him towards the left with my gathered 
troops, shadowed in spirit for Warren's sake. I 
could not be sorry for the corps, nor that Griffin 
was in command of it — he had the confidence of the 
whole corps. And however sharp was Griffin's 
satire, he had the generosity which enables one to 
be truly just, and never made his subordinates 
vicarious victims of his own interior irritations. 

We had now come to the edge of a wide field 
across the road and the works on the enemy's 
right, known as the Gilliam field. Here I came to 
Sheridan and Griffin, my troops all up, and well in 
hand. A sharp cavalry fight was going on, in 
which some of Ayres' men and my own had taken 
part. On the right, along the White Oak Road, 
were portions of Crawford's infantry that had 
swung around so quickly as to get ahead of us and 
they were the ones now principally engaged. 

Here Warren took his leave of the corps, himself 
under a shadow as somber as the scene and with a 
flash as lurid as the red light of the battle-edge 

150 The Passing of the Armies 

rolling away into the darkness and distance of the 
deep woods. When our line was checked at this 
last angle, Griffin had ordered one of Crawford's 
colonels to advance. The colonel, a brave and 
well-balanced man, replied that where soldiers as 
good as Griffin's men had failed, he did not feel 
warranted in going in without proper orders . ' ' Very 
well I order you in!" says Griffin, without adding 
that he did it as commander of the corps. The 
gallant colonel bows, — it is Richardson, of the 
7th Wisconsin, — grasps his regimental colors in 
his own hand, significant of the need and his resolu- 
tion in face of it, and rides forward in advance of 
his men. What can they do but follow such ex- 
ample? General Warren, with intensity of feeling 
that is now desperation, snatches his corps flag 
from the hands of its bearer, and dashes to Rich- 
ardson's side. And so the two leaders ride, the 
corps commander and his last visible colonel, — 
colors aloft, reckless of the growing distance be- 
tween them and their followers, straight for the 
smoking line, straight for the flaming edge; not 
hesitating at the breastworks, over they go: one 
with swelling tumult of soul, where the passion of 
suffering craves outburst in action; the other with 
obedience and self-devotion, love-like, stronger 
than death. Over the breastworks, down among 
the astonished foe, one of whom, instinct over- 
mastering admiration, aims at the foremost a 
deadly blow, which the noble youth rushes forward 
to parry, and shielding with his own the breast of 
his uncaring commander, falls to earth, bathing his 

Five Forks 151 

colors with his blood. Need more be told? Do 
men tarry at such a point? One crested wave 
sweeps on; another, broken, rolls away. All is 
lost; and all is won. Slowly Warren returns over 
the somber field. At its forsaken edge a staff 
officer hands him a crude field order. Partly by 
the lurid flashes of the last guns, partly by light of 
the dying day, he reads: "Major-General Warren, 
commanding the Fifth Army Corps, is relieved 
from duty and will at once report for orders to 
Lieutenant -General Grant, commanding Armies 
of the United States. By command of Major- 
General Sheridan." 

With almost the agony of death upon his face, 
Warren approaches Sheridan and asks him if he 
cannot reconsider the order. "Reconsider. Hell! 
I don't reconsider my decisions. Obey the order! " 
fell the last thunderbolt on Warren's heart. 

The battle has done its worst for him. The iron 
has entered his soul. With bowed head and with- 
out a word, he turns from the spectral groups of 
friend and foe mingled in the dark, forbidding 
cloud of night, to report to the one man on earth 
who held power over what to him was dearer than 
life, and takes his lonely way over that eventful 
field, along that fateful White Oak Road, which for 
him had no end on earth. 

After nightfall the corps was drawn in around 
Five Forks, for a brief respite. We were all so 
worn out that our sinking bodies took our spirits 
with them. We had reasons to rejoice so far as 
victory gives reasons; but there was a strange 

152 The Passing of the Armies 

weight on the hearts of us all. Of things within? 
or things without? We could not tell. It was not 
wholly because Warren had gone, although in the 
sundering of old ties there is always a strain, and 
Warren had been part of the best history of the 
Fifth Corps from the beginning. Even victory is 
not for itself; it looks to a cause and an end. We 
thought of this, pondering on the worth and cost, 
and to what that end might unfold, of which this 
was the beginning. There are other emotions, too, 
which will arise when night draws over a scene 
like that, and with it the thoughts come home. 

We grouped ourselves around Grifhn at the 
Forks, center of the whirling struggle, we who 
were left of those once accustomed to gather about 
him in field or bivouac, — alas for those who came 
no more! — half -reclining against the gloomy tree- 
trunks and rudely piled defenses so gallantly lost 
and won, torn by splintering shot and rush of men; 
half-stretched on the ground moistened by the dews 
of night and the blood of the mingled brave; 
hushed at heart, speaking but in murmurs answer- 
ing to the whispers of the night ; with a tremulous 
sensitiveness, an awe that was not fear. Few 
things we said; but they were not of the history 
that is told. 

Suddenly emerged from the shadows a compact 
form, with vigorous stride unlike the measure and 
mood of ours and a voice that would itself have 
thrilled us had not the Import of it thrilled us more. 
"Gentlemen," says Sheridan, as we half started 
to our feet, " I have come over to see you. I may 

Five Forks 153 

have spoken harshly to some of you to-day; but 
I would not have it hurt you. You know how it is : 
we had to carry this place, and I was fretted all 
day till it was done. You must forgive me. I 
know it is hard for the men, too ; but we must push. 
There is more for us to do together. I appreciate 
and thank you all. " 

And this is Phil Sheridan ! A new view of him, 
surely, and amazing. All the repressed feeling of 
our hearts sprang out towards him. We were 
ready to blame ourselves if we had been in any way 
the cause of his trouble. But we thought we had 
borne a better part than that. 

We had had a taste of his style of fighting, and 
we liked it. In some respects it was different from 
ours; although this was not a case to test all 
qualities. We had formed some habits of fighting 
too. Most of us there had been through Antietam, 
Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Mine 
Run, the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, 
Bethesda Church, the North Anna, Petersburg: — 
we had formed habits. We went into a fight with 
knowledge of what it meant and what was to be 
done. We went at things with dogged resolution; 
not much show; not much flare; not much accom- 
paniment of brass instruments. But we could 
give credit to more brilliant things. We could see 
how this voice and vision, this swing and color, this 
vivid impression on the senses, carried the pulse 
and will of men. This served as the old "fife and 
drum," and "Hail Columbia," that used to stir 
men's souls. We had a habit, perhaps, drawn 

154 The Passing of the Armies 

from dire experience, and for which we had also 
Grant's quite recent sanction/ when we had carried 
a vital point or had to hold one, to entrench. But 
Sheridan does not entrench. He pushes on, carry- 
ing his flank and rear with him, — rushing, flashing, 
smashing. He transfuses into his subordinates 
the vitality and energy of his purpose ; transforms 
them into part of his own mind and will. He 
shows the power of a commander, — inspiring both 
confidence and fear. He commanded our admir- 
ation, but we could discriminate: we reserved 
room for question whether he exhibited all the 
qualities essential to a chief commander in a cam- 
paign, or even in the complicated movements of an 
extensive field of battle. 

As a rule, our corps and army commanders were 
men of brains rather than of magnetism. Warren 
was one of these. He was well capable of organ- 
izing an entire plan of battle on a great field. He 
would have been an admirable chief of staff of the 
army, where brains outweigh temperament. He 
could see the whole comprehensively and adjust 
the parts subordinate to it. But he had a certain 
ardor of temperament which, although it brought 
him distinction as a subordinate commander, 
seemed to work against him as corps commander. 
It led him to go in personally with a single division 
or brigade, when a sharp fight came on. Doing 
this when having a larger command, one takes the 
risk of losing grasp of the whole. That was what 

' The order to entrench on the White Oak Road, March 31st. See 
War Papers, vol. i., p. 235. 

Five Forks 155 

he did in trying to change front with Crawford's 
Division under fire. It was a difficult thing. He 
put his personaHty into it ; just as Sheridan would 
do and did in this very fight. It was the crudest 
thing to say of him that he "was not in the fight. " 
This blamed him for the very opposite of what had 
been complained of as his chief fault ; and this time 
the accusation was not true. He was in the fight; 
and that in fact was his fault; at any rate it was 
his evil fate. That he felt this accusation' keenly 
was manifest in that last reckless onset in the 
charge in the Gilliam field: he would let Sheridan 
see whether he was in the fight or not. But this 
did no good. If he had brought Crawford in 
where Griffin came, he might have saved himself. 
But that long labor of his out of Sheridan's sight 
missed the moment. It was too late. The day 
was done. So he rode through into the night. 

In the later dispositions of the corps the several 
divisions were moved out in directions which would 
best guard against sudden attack, not unexpected: 
Crawford, down the Ford Road, half-way to the 
Run; Ay res out the White Oak Road on the right, 
and Bartlett on the left, facing towards the enemy, 
supposed to be gathered in their last stronghold 
where we had left their main body the day before, — 
the Claiborne entrenchments. It fell to me to be 
held in reserve, and by midnight my command was 
left alone on the field over which the sweeping 
vision of power had passed. The thunder and 
tumult of the day had died with it. Now only 
the sighing of the night winds through the pine 

156 The Passinor of the Armies 

tops took up the ghostly refrain; and moans from 
the darkened earth beneath told where we also 
belonged. So the night was not for sleep, but 
given to solemn and tender duties, and to thoughts 
that passed beyond that field. 

This is the story of Five Forks within my knowl- 
edge of what was done and suffered there. It 
shows confusions and struggles besides those of the 
contending lines. It shows extent and complexity 
quite beyond what would appear from an outside 
view of the movement or the orders concerning it. 
The story that went out early, and has taken lodg- 
ment in the public mind, is more simple. Taking 
its rise and keynote from Sheridan's report, some- 
what intensified by his staff officers, and adopted 
by Grant without feeling necessity of further 
investigation, this story is that Sheridan and 
his cavalry, with the assistance of a part of Ayres' 
Division, carried Five Forks with all its works, 
angles, and returns, its captives, guns, and glory. 

The widely drawn and all-embracing testimony 
before the Warren Court of Inquiry in 1879 and 
1880, although in some instances confused and 
even contradictory, — the result, however, in no 
small degree of the preoccupation in the witnesses' 
minds by the accounts so early and abundantly 
put forth, and without rectification for so long a 
time, — yet reveals some spreading of the plan of 
battle, a steadfast, well-connected, and well-exe- 
cuted conformity to the ideas under which the battle 
was ordered. It also affords ample means of un- 

Five Forks 157 

derstanding the confusions and frictions which 
were actual passages in the battle, and not artificial 
and intensified in statement under the necessity of 
sustaining a thesis or vindicating an act of authority. 
The light shed by these records and the official War 
Records lately published enables us now, by some 
effort of attention it is true, to see in proper per- 
spective, sequence, and comprehension the complex 
details of that battle. 

There was some very remarkable testimony 
before the court in regard to the fight at Dinwiddle, 
resulting from anything but "infirmity of mind." 
There were also many inconsistencies concerning 
the fight at Five Forks. But all these must be 
accepted as a part of human conditions.^ 

The whole trouble and the disturbance of Sheri- 
dan's preconceived image of the battle arose from 
a wide misunderstanding of the enemy's position, 
and the consequent direction of the attack by the 
Fifth Corps. The general plan was well under- 
stood by us all, and the specific written orders were 
in perfect accordance with the idea in our minds. 
It was to be mainly a flank and rear attack, — a 
cyclone sweep. The intention evidently was that 

' See, for instance, Sheridan's statement before the Warren Court, 
Records, p. ii8, and those of his officers all through this investigation. 
Also Grant's account of this battle, Memoirs, vol. ii., pp. 443-446, the 
details of which, however, are so erroneous as to movements, their time 
and place and bearing on the result, that they would not be recognized 
as pertaining to that battle by anyone who was there; — an observation 
which adds to our sorrow at the distressing circumstances under which 
the distinguished writer was compelled to conclude his last volume 
without opportunity for examining the then existing evidence in that 

158 The Passing of the Armies 

our cavalry should engage the enemy's attention 
by vigorous demonstrations on their right and 
center, while the left of the Fifth Corps — Ayres' 
Division — should strike the left of the enemy's 
entrenched line at the angle or return on the White 
Oak Road, and on this pivot the whole corps should 
make a great left turn and flank and envelop the 
enemy's entire position.' It was a brilliant piece of 
tactics, and if properly carried out its success was 
as certainly predicted as anything in warfare can 
be. There was no lack of loyalty and earnestness. 
The importance of the battle was felt, and Sheri- 
dan's impatience shared by all. 

But our actual movement was based on an 
imperfect reconnoissance, and a diagram made 
therefrom greatly misled us. This showed Craw- 
ford, the extreme right of the corps, directed on 
the angle, instead of Ayres, the extreme left. 
By this, not a man of the Fifth Corps could reach 
the White Oak Road without doing so on top of the 
enemy entrenched upon it. Swinging to the left 
on reaching it would have to be done inside the 
enemy's lines, or in front of them at close touch, 
presenting the right of each subdivision to their 
raking fire. 

The diagram placed the angle of the enemy's 
works at the crossing of the White Oak Road and 
the road we were formed on, — the Gravelly Run 
Church Road; while as matter of fact, the angle 
was one thousand yards west of this crossing. 
So that "the line as formed" moving forward, 

' See map. 

Five Forks 159 

instead of its right striking the angle, as the dia- 
gram indicated, the left of the line would pass it at 
the distance of nearly five hundred yards, as Ay res 

It is now perfectly shown, although not clearly 
held in mind by all, even at the Warren investiga- 
tion, that the celebrated "angle" and "return" 
were not the extreme left of the enemy's lines, nor 
of his fortified position, as would appear by the 
diagram. East of the angle as given there, was an 
extended work of similar character, but across the 
White Oak Road — south of it — extending a hun- 
dred and fifty yards, facing south. This seems to 
have been intended to cover the "return" which 
ran north from its right for some two hundred 
yards. This was the vicinity of the veritable "an- 
gle" where the severe fight took place when our in- 
fantry struck Ransom's and Wallace's Brigades on 
the return.' There had been a good deal of hard 
fighting north of the White Oak Road before 
reaching this angle at all. 

Nor were the troops in the main works and 
about the "angle" and the "return" — as both the 
orders and the diagram indicated — by any means 
all the force we had to contend with that day. 
Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry, dismounted, now com- 
manded by Munford, — among them Stuart's old 
brigade, and as their officers said, "as good 
marksmen as ever fired a gun, " — were confronting 
our advance, all the way round, not less than 

' It was from this that our advance, Ayres and Crawford, v>?as first 
struck. Testimony of General Munford, Warren Court Records, p. 4^52. 

i6o The Passing of the Armies 

fifteen hundred skilled and veteran soldiers, — no 
sort of people to be ignored by us, nor by those 
reporting the battle to be wholly on the angle and 
on our cavalry front. 

Now this was a very different state of facts from 
that anticipated and pictured by us, and we had 
to rectify all our lines under heavy fire in the midst 
of battle. Who was responsible for this misap- 
prehension? It would appear that the staff of- 
ficer making the reconnoissance had not examined 
the whole field or all of the enemy's position. 
Possibly Munford's cavalry had not then reached 
that portion of the field. But a discrepancy of a 
thousand yards in a report of such consequence is 
a pretty wide error. It might be said that Warren 
was responsible for assuring himself perfectly of 
the conditions in his front of attack. But Sheridan 
saw and approved the diagram; and if anybody 
is to be blamed, he must be considered ultimately, 
and in a military sense, responsible for these mis- 
apprehensions. At any rate there was a very 
imperfect reconnoissance, from which we all suf- 
fered; but it would be very unjust to place the 
blame on the Fifth Corps or its commander. 

It was charged by General Sheridan and som.e 
of his staff that the right of Ayres' line, which 
they call skirmishers, behaved badly on receiving 
the first fire, — that they threw themselves on the 
ground and fired into the air ; that they even broke 
and ran; and that General Warren did not exert 
himself to correct the confusion. As if the corps 
commander's duty was to be on a brigade skirmish 

Five Forks i6i 

line in a great wide-sweeping movement of his 
entire corps! Sheridan and Ayres would seem to 
be assistance enough for Gwyn in handHng his 
little skirmish line. But Sheridan says more 
deliberately and explicitly before the Warren 
Court: "Our skirmish line lay down; the fire of 
the enemy was very slight. The line became 
confused, and commenced firing straight in the air." 
A somewhat difficult operation, it may be remarked 
parenthetically, for men lying down, — unless the 
resultant of two such compound forces as the enemy 
in front and Sheridan behind made them roll over 
flat on their backs, calling on heaven for aid. 
"The poor fellows," he continues, "had been 
fighting behind breastworks, for a long period, and 
when they got out to attack breastworks, they 
seem to have been a little timid. "^ They were 
attacking breastworks then, out at the Church 
Road crossing! But this is perhaps a fling at the 
Army of the Potomac in the soft places of "Grant's 
Campaign, " in which they lost more men than Lee 
had in his entire army, and saved the other quarter 
by now and then entrenching when put momen- 
tarily on the defensive. Ayres does not relish this 
remark, whether intended for excuse or sarcasm. 
He answers that his troops, most of them, had 
fought at Gettysburg, and through the Wilderness, 
Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and the 
Weldon Railroad, and none of them had ever but 
once fought behind breastworks.^ 

The unsteadiness of Ayres' skirmishers was 

» Testimony, Warren Court Records, p. 254, ' Ibid, p. 450. 

1 62 The Passing of the Armies 

no vital matter. It was a trifling circumstance, 
hardly relevant to the charge of indifference and 
incompetency on Warren's part, and did not war- 
rant the launching of thunderbolts at the whole 
Fifth Corps. At the worst, the commander of the 
skirmish line might have been reprimanded and "re- 
lieved, " but hardly the commander of the corps. 

I am pained on more accounts than one to find 
that General Grant in his notice of our action that 
afternoon, as given in his Memoirs (volume ii., 
page 443), uses the following language: "Griffin's 
Division, in backing to get out of the way of a 
severe cross-fire of the enemy, was found marching 
away from the fighting. " He adds, however, that 
after a while it was "brought back" and did excel- 
lent service. This is an extraordinary statement, 
— or at any rate it is to be hoped it is not an 
ordinary one in writing history, — to put down 
authoritatively as the record of our conduct and 
spirit that day. 

"Backing to get out of the way of fire"? Grif- 
fin's Division? At what point in their history? 
"Backing from a cross-fire" here? The fire first 
followed was that of Munford's cavalry on their 
front and right while advancing according to 
orders; and "backing" from this would have 
thrown them directly on the celebrated "angle," 
where indeed they did arrive most timely, and on 
purpose to meet a "cross-fire, " which they did not 
back out of. "Away from the fighting"? Let 
Ayres, and Ransom, and Wallace, and Wood, and 
Sheridan answer. "Found"? By whom? "Brought 

Five Forks 163 

back"? By what? They were found at the 
"angle," and brought themselves there ahead of 
the finders. Saul, the seeker of old, got more lost 
than the domestic wanderers he was after: they 
were in their place before he was; but the seeker 
found a kingdom, and doubtless forgave himself 
and the animals whose society he missed. 

But this is a very serious charge against Griffin's 
Division, and in time of active service would 
warrant a court of inquiry. And even now the 
statement of one so revered cannot but be injurious 
to its reputation and its honor. 

To have stated this as fact without being sure of 
it is so unlike the truthfulness and magnanimity 
of that great character, that we are forced to be- 
lieve he has here fallen before his only weak- 
ness, — that of trusting too implicitly to those 
whom he liked. If General Grant was to honor us 
by his notice at all, we should suppose he would 
acquaint himself with the facts. He seems, how- 
ever, on so comparatively unimportant a topic, to 
have innocently absorbed the impression made 
upon him by parties interested in justifying an 
arbitrary act of authority. If General Grant 
could have looked into the case, he would have 
seen that this statement was not only unjust, but 
the very reverse of truth. The pressing sense of 
his approaching end compelled General Grant to 
finish his book in haste. However painful it may 
be to review words written under circumstances so 
affecting, it is but just to inquire into the grounds 
of the accusation. 

164 The Passing of the Armies 

GrifBn's orders were to follow Crawford, but 
the spirit of his position was that of a reserve; 
and this is held in hand ready to go in at a critical 
moment when and where most needed. All the 
facts necessary to adduce are that this division 
strictly, and with painstaking fidelity, — not in 
stupid quiescence, — followed its orders, until a 
moment came when it promptly acted in accord- 
ance with the spirit of its orders and of the whole 
plan of battle. It was "reserved" for that very 
kind of thing. And no one can say it fell short of 
its duty or the standard of its ancient honor. 

The evidence is explicit and ample that the head 
of this division was at the angle of the works with 
Ayres and helped him to carry it. This is directly 
testified to by commanding officers of the "Mary- 
land Brigade" on Ayres' right, and of the 4th 
Delaware on Gwyn's right, who say that Griffin's 
troops were on the flank and rear of the rebel line 
at the angle before they attacked it in front. ^ This 
is confirmed by officers of the highest character in 
Ransom's Brigade on the left of the angle."* Gen- 

' Colonel Stanton, who succeeded Bowerman in command of Ayres' 
Second Brigade, says the enemy were struck on their left and rear and 
forced in confusion on his front at the angle. Captain Buckingham, 
commanding the 4th Delaware, the extreme right of Ayres' Division, 
says our troops had struck the enemy's works from the north at the 
time he reached them in front, facing west. 

' Captain Faucette, 56th North Carolina, Ransom's Brigade, fully 
confirms this; and Honorable Thomas R. Roulac, 49th North Carolina, 
says that when the angle was carried, his troops had been attacked from 
the north and west, as well as on their proper front; and this by troops 
he saw moving down on them from the north, and that it was a "hand 
to hand" fight, "with clubbed muskets." See also North Carolina 
Regiments, 1861-65, vol. iii., p. 143. 

Five Forks 165 

eral Ayres says substantially the same in his testi- 
mony before the Warren Court. ^ General Sheri- 
dan himself admits this.^ It is evident, however, 
that in recounting his impression of the fight at the 
angle he failed to give prominence to the fact — 
of no consequence to him, or to the general result, 
as to the particular troops engaged ; and moreover, 
if acknowledged, making against his charge that 
Warren did not bring in his other divisions to sup- 
port Ayres — that Griffin's troops quite as much as 
Ayres' took part in carrying that angle. Indeed, 
he most probably regarded the troops of Griffin 
whom he met here as part of Ayres' command. 
For this would explain most of the discrepancies 
in his statements compared with established and 
admitted facts. 

But in truth the fight was by no means over 
when the angle was carried. Although tactically 
the result was a foregone conclusion when this was 
done, and although the fighting there was for a 
few minutes sharp, yet the hard fighting was in the 
whole field where the enemy made their successive 
stands with such courage and desperation. Griffin's 
part in this, and even Crawford's, cannot be 

But it is insisted that Crawford's Division 
marched out of the fight. What is true is that 
it did not swing in promptly on Ayres' when he 

' Ayres says Chamberlain's troops at the angle were somewhat in 
advance of his at the critical moment. Warren Court Records, p. 267 
and p. 1080. 

' Testimony, Records Warren Court, p. 123. 

i66 The Passing of the Armies 

changed front to the left. That was an error, and 
an inexcusable departure from positive orders, not 
being warranted by the developments of the battle. 
But something is to be said about its cause, and 
its practical results. The diagram indicated to 
Crawford that his division would strike the enemy 
first at the "angle." Encountering serious re- 
sistance on crossing the White Oak Road, and 
naturally drawn towards it, he kept on, expecting 
perhaps that he was shortly to encounter the main 
force of the enemy in their works, and not observing 
the more severe attack which fell on Ayres* left, — 
where, indeed, the general orders for the battle 
should have prepared him to understand it, and 
take accordant action. In such case. Griffin would 
have taken in hand what was opposing Crawford. 
But the enemy before him led him to a wider sweep, 
in the course of which he confronted not only the 
two thousand dismounted cavalry, but at length 
large bodies of the infantry broken from their first 
hold and trying to make a stand on the Ford Road. 
He had fighting all the way around. Calling our 
fight at the angle, on our extreme left, "the front, " 
and saying that General Warren was not "in the 
fight," while it might be pardoned as an excited 
ejaculation in the heat of battle, will not stand as 
sober truth, or as the premise for so violent a 
conclusion. And all those people who ring changes 
on the "obliquing off" of Crawford and Griffin 
from the center of action, "marching away from 
the fighting," or "drifting out of" what they call 
(by a familiar figure of speech) "the fight, " do not 

Five Forks 167 

tell us that this appearance was because Ayres was 
suddenly compelled to make a square change of 
front, and those who did not instantly conform 
and follow might seem to be obliquing to the right, 
when in fact they were "swinging to the left" 
according to orders, — unfortunately by too wide a 
sweep, having a very active enemy in their front. 
In this concern, some minds are unduly affected 
by that very natural notion that the fight is where 
they are ; although in the case of General Sheridan 
it must be admitted that "the point was well 
taken." Crawford's wide movement was un- 
doubtedly an error, and a costly one for Warren; 
but the simple fact that Crawford lost more men 
in the battle than both the other divisions together 
— more indeed than all the rest, cavalry and in- 
fantry together — goes to show that some of the 
fight was where he was. 

These accusations against the conduct of each 
of Warren's divisions, while susceptible of being 
magnified and manipulated so as to produce a 
certain forensic effect, are of no substantial weight. 
Even if true in the sharpest sense, they would be 
overstrained and uncalled for considering how the 
battle ended, and by whom it was mainly fought. 

But the case against Warren seems to be labored. 
Small matters are accentuated and accumulated 
as if to make weight for some special conclusion. 

First there is the accusation of a manner of in- 
difference on Warren's part previous to the action. 
As to this, opinions would vary. There is no 
doubt this feeling on General Sheridan's part 

i68 The Passing of the Armies 

was very deep and disturbing. That must be con- 
sidered. Those who knew Warren best saw no 
indifference. He was not in his usual spirits, — and 
we cannot wonder at it, — but he was intense rather 
than expressive. He knew what was depending, 
and what was called for, and put his energies into 
the case more mentally than muscularly. His 
subordinates understood his earnestness. 

The broad ground of reason — and a valid one if 
substantiated by fact — for dissatisfaction with 
General Warren's conduct in the battle, and for his 
removal from command in consequence, would be 
that he was not in proper position during the battle 
to command his whole corps, and did not effectually 
command it. That at a sharp and critical point 
he was not present where General Sheridan wanted 
him is another matter, which does not in itself 
support the former conclusion. 

In a military and highly proper sense. General 
Warren was responsible for the conduct of his 
corps, and ultimately for that of each of his divi- 
sions. There are two ways in which such control 
might be exercised: by prevention, or by correction. 
It was Crawford's duty to keep his vital connection 
with Ayres, and if in any way it should be broken, 
to be on the alert to see and to act. Warren 
should hold him responsible for that. And if he 
could not at the start rouse Crawford, whose 
peculiarities he knew, to a vivid conception of the 
anatomy and physiology of the case, he should 
have had a staff officer charged with the duty of 
keeping Crawford closed on Ayres, while he himself 

Five Forks 169 

at the point where he could keep in touch with his 
whole corps should hold Griffin under his hand as 
the ready and trusted reserve prepared for the 

It may be questioned, perhaps, whether it was 
wise to give Crawford that front line and wheeling 
flank in a movement of such importance, and make 
him a guide for Griffin. It would have been bet- 
ter (as Griffin and Ayres said later in the day) 
to put Griffin on Ayres* right, in the order in which, 
curiously enough. Griffin's brigades put themselves 
as if by some spiritual attraction, or possibly only 
common sense. 

But it may be justly said that, whatever errors 
the development of the battle disclosed, Warren 
should have made his troops conform to the state 
of facts. He did. We can well understand how 
exasperating it must have been to General Sheridan 
when Ayres was so suddenly, and it seems un- 
expectedly, struck on the left flank, to find the 
largest division of the corps not tiirning with him, 
but drawing away from the tactical focus and 
the close envelopment of it intended, and getting 
into the place on the wheeling flank which was 
assigned to Mackenzie's cavalry, and crowding 
Mackenzie "out of the fight." Griffin, when the 
exigencies on the left disclosed this error, hastened 
to put in his rear brigade, — the nearest, — now 
become the leading one. Warren with the same 
intent, passing him, pushed on for Crawford with 
feverish effort not short of agony. Indeed he 
did more than could be legally required. He 

170 The Passing of the Armies 

performed acts of "supererogation," — voluntary- 
works and above the commandments, — which 
certainly should have saved him from perdition. 
He undertook the duties of staff officer for Craw- 
ford. He got hold of Kellogg's Brigade and posted 
it as a "marker" in the midst of the Sydnor woods, 
while he went off to find the rest of Crawford, and 
make him execute the grand left wheel; when one 
of Sheridan's staff coming along, astonished at this 
dumbshow, a brigade stationary, "marking time" 
at such a crisis, orders the marker into the "fight " ; 
which the gallant commander begins right there, 
but ends soon after with a more exacting antagonist 
and with equal glory. 

Meantime finding Crawford disporting himself 
on the tangent of a two-mile ctirve, Warren stuck 
to him like a tutor, leading him in on a quick 
radius to the supposed center, — which, be it borne 
in mind, we were all the time shifting off to the 
westward, making his route exhibit all the marvels 
of the hyperbola. His guide had gone into the 
vortex, and all he could do, in coming back with 
Crawford's recovered men, was to follow the fire, 
which we were battering off to the Forks. The 
cyclone had become a cycloid. So that Crawford 
was constantly obstructed by fugitives from the 
fight crowding him worse and worse all the way 
around; and when at last he struck the enemy's 
works, it was by no fault of Warren's that he struck 
them at their western end, near the Gilliam field, 
instead of at the left and center through the Sydnor 
fields. Things being as they were, Warren got his 

Five Forks 171 

corps into the "fight" as quickly and effectively 
as he or anybody else possibly could. 

But it is charged that the failure to close quickly 
on Ayres imperiled the result of the whole battle/ 
Recalling the fact that Griffin did not fail to close 
very promptly on Ayres, striking the "return" 
before Ayres struck the "angle," and the fact 
that the battle went on in the general way intended 
only by a wider sweep and more complete envelop- 
ment, we should give attention to this remark, 
made in a manner so forcible. General Sheridan's 
judgment as a tactician can hardly be questioned; 
nor can his deliberate statement of it. But as we 
are now on the line of hypothesis, we may be 
entitled to consider what would have been the 
result in case Ayres had been withstood, or even 
repulsed, in his first attack. In the assertion 
before us, no account is made of Griffin's troops. 
Is it assumed that they were a flock of stray sheep, 
engaged in backing out of fire? What they would 
do may be judged from what they did. And can 
anyone suppose the enemy would consider them- 
selves in a very triumphant position between 
three bodies of our troops: — Ayres in front; the 
cavalry in rear; and two divisions of the Fifth 
Corps on their left flank as they would then front? 
How long does anyone believe it would be, at 
such a signal, before the whole Fifth Corps and our 
cavalry also would whirl in, and catch the enemy 

'General Sheridan says: "If Ayres had been defeated, Crawford 
would have been captured: the battle would have been lost." Testi- 
mony, Warren Court Records, p. 125. 

172 The Passing of the Armies 

in a maelstrom of destruction? What did happen, 
as it was, would have happened quicker had Ayres 
fared harder. 

Or suppose Ayres was not so fortunately struck 
from the extended outwork, and had marched past 
the left of the enemy's entrenched line two hundred 
and fifty yards away, as he says he was doing.' 
Being on Griffin's left, he must have struck the 
left flank of the "return," and soon the rear of 
the enemy's main line on the White Oak Road. 
Griffin would then have been in immediate con- 
nection and would have swung with him. It would 
have taken a little longer; but the enemy would 
have been enveloped all the same. Sheridan's 
brilliant tactics would have been triumphant. 
Only Warren would have shared the glory. 

Another consideration. Take things exactly 
as they were said to be, — Ayres at the "angle"; 
Griffin and Crawford out. What if those three 
Confederate brigades, ordered out of the Claiborne 
entrenchments that afternoon to fall on the flank 
of the Fifth Corps attacking at Five Forks, had 
come straight down, and not gone a long round- 
about way as they did, striking too late and too far 
away for any good or harm, — what would have 
been the effect in such case had not these two 
divisions of the Fifth Corps been out there to stop 

But suppose, again, all had gone as ordered and 

' Testimony, Warren Court Records, p. 255. Major Benyaurd, Corps 
of Engineers, says Ayres' left passed the "Bass" house to our right 
of it. Warren Court Records, p. 160. 

Five Forks 173 

intended, and Crawford and Griffin had swung 
in on the rear of the Hnes on the White Oak Road. 
Would it not have been awkward to have these 
five thousand fresh men^ come down on the backs 
of our infantry, while having its hands full in 
front? What could Mackenzie have done with 
these men and Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry together? 
Lucky was it for us, in either case, that these five 
thousand infantrymen did not get down there. 
Lucky would it have been in such case, that Craw- 
ford and Griffin should happen to be out as flankers. 

It is a very remarkable circumstance that neither 
of the three chief Confederate commanders was 
actually present on the field during the progress of 
the battle. They had been on the ground earlier 
it seems on retiring from Dinwiddie; but for one 
reason or another they had one by one retired across 
Hatcher's Run, — looking after their "communica- 
tions" very likely.^ Pickett returned to the field 
only after we had all gained the Ford Road at 
about 6 P.M., but Fitzhugh Lee and Rosser not at 
all. Pickett narrowly escaped the shots of our 
men as he attempted to pass them to reach his 
broken lines towards the White Oak Road. 

It is also remarkable that General Robert E. Lee, 
although himself alert, was not kept informed by 

* General Hunton, before the Warren Court, placed the numbers of 
these three brigades, when they attacked us the day before, first at 
seven thousand five hundred, but was induced by the effect of cross 
examination afterwards to reduce this to five thousand. Records, pp. 
629 and 630. 

^ Private correspondence of Confederate officers present gives some 
curious details as to a shad dinner on the north side of Hatcher's Run. 

174 The Passing of the Armies 

Fitzhugh Lee or Pickett of the movements of the 
Fifth Corps in relation to Five Forks, and that Lee 
was led by a word from Pickett to suppose that 
Fitzhugh Lee's and Rosser's cavalry were both 
close in support of Pickett's left flank at Five Forks. ^ 
This was not the truth. Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry 
under Munford was over a thousand yards east of 
Pickett's left at the beginning and during the day 
was pressed around his rear so as to reach his 
troops after their lines had all been broken. And 
as for Rosser's cavalry they were at no time on the 
field. We know now that General Lee afterwards 
wrote General Wade Hampton in these words: 
"Had you been at Five Forks with your cavalry 
the disaster would not have befallen my army." 
Nor does it appear that General Anderson, com- 
manding General Lee's reserves in this quarter, 
knew anything of the pressing need of them at Five 
Forks until all was over. 

So there are some other generals beside Warren 
who helped Sheridan to his fame at Five Forks. 

So much for the tactics of that battle. In spite 
of errors it was a great victory. It was Sheridan's 
battle. The glory of it is his. With his cavalry 
there was no error nor failure. Their action was 
not less than magnificent ; the central thought car- 
ried into every brilliant act ; — a picture to satisfy 
any point of view, idealist or impressionist. 

As to the strategic merits of the battle, a few 
reflections may be permitted. Undoubtedly, as 
things were, it was an important battle. But our 

^ Rebellion Records, serial 95, p. 1264. 

Five Forks 175 

isolated position there invited fresh attack; and 
we only escaped it by the blundering or over-cau- 
tious course of the forces sent out by Lee from 
the Claiborne front that afternoon, and which in 
Sheridan's solicitude we were pushed out to meet 
that night. Then, too, we were much farther off 
from the Petersburg front, and the opportunity for 
concerted action with the other corps in the line 
for general assault. And finally, we were in no 
more advantageous position now than we should 
have been if we had turned the Claiborne flank of 
the enemy's entrenchments, and cut the Southside 
Road at Sutherland's the day before.^ Indeed, 
the very first thing we did the next morning after 
Five Forks was to move back to turn this same 
flank on the Claiborne Road and gain possession of 
Sutherland's. But Miles had taken care of this, 
as we might have done before him. Only Lee had 
now got a day's start of us, the head of his column 
well out on its retreat, necessitated not by Five 
Forks alone but by gallant work along our whole 
confronting line, — which might have been done the 
day before, and saved the long task of racing day 
and night, of toils and tribulations and losses 
recorded and unrecorded, which brought fame to 
Appomattox, and the end of deeds rewarded and 

A study of this battle shows vexing provocations, 

^ The right of the enemy's entrenchments on the Claiborne Road after 
they were driven in on the afternoon of March 31st was by no means 
strongly held. Testimony of General Himton, Warren Court Records, 
p. 629. 

176 The Passing of the Armies 

but does not show satisfactory reasons for the 
removal of General Warren from command of the 
Fifth Corps. The fact is that much of the dis- 
satisfaction with him was of longer standing. 
We recall the incident that General Sheridan did 
not wish to have the Fifth Corps with him at the 
start^; also the suggestion by General Grant that 
Sheridan might have occasion to remove him, and 
the authority to do so^; then the keen disappoint- 
ments of the Dinwiddie overture the day before, 
and the exasperation at Warren's not reporting to 
Sheridan that night.^ We recall General Griffin's 
remark in the morning that something Hke this 
would happen before the day was through."* We 
recur also to the complaints earlier noticed.^ 
There was an unfavorable judgment of Warren's 
manner of handling a corps; an uncomfortable 
sense of certain intellectual peciiliarities of his; 
a dislike of his self-centered manner and tempera- 
ment and habit generally, and his rather injudicious 
way of expressing his opinion on tender topics. 
There was a variety of antagonism towards General 
Warren stored up and accumulating in General 
Sheridan's mind, and the tension of a heated 
moment brought the catastrophe. 

No one can doubt General Sheridan's "right'* 
to remove Warren; but whether he was right in 
doing so is another question, and one involving 
many elements. It is necessary that a chief com- 

' See paper on the White Oak Road, vol. i., of this series, p. 230. 
^ Idem, p. 246. J Idem, pp. 244-45. 

* Ante. s Ante, note. 

Five Forks 177 

mander, who is under grave responsibilities, should 
have the power to control and even displace the 
subordinates on whom he depends for the execution 
of his plans. Nor is it to be expected that he can 
properly be held to give strict account of action so 
taken, or be called upon to analyze his motives and 
justify himself by reasons to be passed upon by 
others. In this case, there are many subjective 
reasons — influences acting on the mind of General 
Sheridan himself and not easily made known to 
others, impressions from accounts of previous 
action, the appearance of things at the moment, 
and his state of mind in consequence — which go 
to strengthen the favorable presumption accorded 
to his act. But as to the essential equity of it, 
the moral justification of it, opinions will be 
governed by knowledge of facts, and these extend- 
ing beyond the incidents or accidents of this field. 

The simple transfer of a corps commander is 
not a disgrace, nor necessarily an injury. General 
Warren had no vested right to the command of the 
Fifth Corps. And if Sheridan expected to have 
this corps with him in this campaign, in which he 
held assurances of a conspicuous and perhaps pre- 
eminent part, and General Warren was to him a 
persona no7i grata, we cannot wonder that he 
should wish to remove him. He had already ob- 
jected to having this corps with him; but after 
trial he did not send back the corps, but its com- 
mander. It was the time, place, and manner of this 
removal, the implications involved in it, and the 
vague reasons given for it, which made the griev- 

178 The Passing of the Armies 

ance for General Warren. He was immediately 
assigned to another command; but even if Grant 
had restored him to the Fifth Corps, this would not 
wipe out that record, which stood against his honor. 
It is highly probable that a court-martial would not 
have found him guilty of misconduct warranting 
such a punishment as dismissal from his command. 
There was not then, as there is not now, any 
tribunal with power to change the conclusion so 
summarily given by Sheridan, or to annul or miti- 
gate the material effects of it. But such reasons 
as were given for this affected Warren's honor, and 
hence he persistently invoked a court of inquiry. 
All that he could hope for from such a court was 
the opportunity thus given for the facts and 
measurably the motives and feelings affecting the 
case to be brought out and placed upon the public 

The posture of the parties before that court was 
peculiar. The members of the court were general 
officers of the active army. The applicant was 
then a lieutenant-colonel of engineers. The re- 
spondent — virtually the defendant — was lieuten- 
ant-general of the armies of the United States, 
— the superior of course, and the commander, of 
every member of the court, as also of most of the 
witnesses before it, then in the military service. 
The "next friend" and chief witness — called by 
the applicant, but necessarily for the respondent — 
was General Grant, ex-President of the United 
States, who still carried an immense prestige and 
influence. The traditions of the whole War De- 

Five Forks 179 

partment were for sustaining military authority. 
We could not expect this court to bring in a verdict 
of censure on General Sheridan, or anything that 
would amount to that. We can only wonder at 
the courage of all who gave Warren any favorable 
endorsement or explanation, and especially of the 
cotirt which found so little to censure in the conduct 
of General Warren as commander of the Fifth 
Corps in those last three days. The court sus- 
tained General Sheridan in his right, but General 
Warren felt that the revelation of the facts was of 
the nature of vindication. It came too late to save 
much of his life; it may have saved what was 

I am by no means sure but that injustice must 
be taken by a military officer as a necessary part of 
his risks, of the conditions and chances of his ser- 
vice, to be suffered in the same way as wounds and 
sicknesses, in patience and humility. But when 
one feels that his honor and the truth itself are 
impugned, then that larger personality is concerned 
wherein one belongs to others and his worth is 
somehow theirs. Then he does not satisfy himself 
with regret, — that strange complex feeling that 
something is right which is now impossible, — and 
even the truth made known becomes a consolation. 

The battle of Five Forks was also the battle of 
the White Oak Road, on an extended front, in an 
accidental and isolated position, and at a delayed 
hour. It was successful, owing to the character of 
the troops, and the skill and vigor of the com- 
mander. Appomattox was a glorious result of 

i8o The Passing of the Armies 

strong pushing and hard marching. But both 
could have been forestalled, and all that fighting, 
together with that at Sailor's Creek, High Bridge, 
and Farmville have been concentrated in one grand 
assault, of which the sharp-edged line along the 
White Oak Road would have been one blade of the 
shears, and Ord and Wright and Parke on the main 
line the other, and the hard and costly ten days' 
chase and struggle would have been spared so 
many noble men. Lee would not have got a day's 
start of us in the desperate race. Sheridan cutting 
the enemy's communications and rolling up their 
scattering fugitives would have shown his great 
qualities, and won conspicuous, though not su- 
preme honors. Warren would have shared the 
glories of his corps. Humphreys and Wright with 
their veterans of the Second and Sixth, whose 
superb action compelled the first flag of truce con- 
templating Lee's surrender, would not have stood 
idly around the headquarters' flag of the Army of 
the Potomac, with Longstreet's right wing brought 
to bay before them, waiting till Lee's final answer 
to Grant should come through Sheridan to the 
Fifth Corps front, where Ord, of the Army of the 
James, commanded. And Meade, the high-born 
gentleman and high-born soldier, would have been 
spared the slight of being held back with the main 
body of his army, while the laurels were bestowed 
by chance or choice, which had been so fairly won 
by that old army in long years of heroic patience in 
well-doing and stiff ering; — might have been spared 
the after humiliation of experiencing in his own 

Five Forks i8i 

person how fortune and favor preside in the final 
distribution of honors in a country's recognition. 

The Fifth Corps had an eventful history. Two 
passages of it made a remarkable coincidence. It 
was its misfortune to lose two of its commanders — - 
the first and the last in the field of action — by 
measures so questionable as to call for a court of 
review, by which, long after, both were substan- 
tially vindicated: Fitz-John Porter, accounted the 
most accomplished corps commander on the Penin- 
sula, and "heir apparent" to the command of the 
army, and Warren, whom Grant says he had 
looked upon for commander of the army in case 
anything should take from the field the sterling 
Meade. ^ Who from such beginning could have 
foretold the end! And Meade, — he, too, went 
from the Fifth Corps to the command of the army, 
and found there a troubled eminence and an un- 
crowned end. 

Shakespeare tells us, poetizing fate or faith: 

There's a Divinity that shapes our ends, 
Rough-hew them how we will. 

To our common eyes it often seems a dark divin- 
ity that rules; and the schoolmaster might inter- 
change the verbs. 

' Grant's Memoirs, vol. ii., p. 216. 



THE victory at Five Forks had swept away a 
flying buttress of the enemy's stronghold. 
We had broken down the guard of a 
tactical movement to hold their threatened com- 
munications and cover their entrenched lines. We 
may be said to have virtually turned the right of 
the defenses of Petersburg and broken the Con- 
federate hold upon Virginia. It was, indeed, a 
brilliant overture, giving courage to our hearts 
and stimulus to our energies. 

Immediately on learning of Sheridan's victory 
at Five Forks, Grant reissued the suspended order 
directing an assault on the long-confronted de- 
fenses of Petersburg, which was executed by our 
Sixth and Ninth Corps with the assistance of the 
Army of the James with splendid valor and deci- 
sive effects. But he felt anxious about our isolated 
position at Five Forks, and ordered Himiphreys 
to make vigorous demonstrations to find a vul- 
nerable spot in the enemy's entrenched line in his 
front, and if he could not carry any portion of this, 

to send Miles' Division up the White Oak Road 


The Week of Flying Fights 183 

to Sheridan that night. To intensify the diversion, 
our whole army in that quarter was to keep up a 
roar of cannonading all night long. 

We now have to chronicle movements of ex- 
traordinary vacillation and complexity. It will be 
remembered that on the night of the battle most 
of our corps was moved out towards the Clai- 
borne on the White Oak Road, and that part of 
Griffin's Division now commanded by Bartlett 
remained on the field with a guard at the Ford of 
Hatcher's Run, and a picket encompassing that 
storied and now haunted ground. We hardly 
know what General Grant can be desiring to 
establish when he says {Memoirs, ii., p. 446) that 
Sheridan, "appreciating the importance of the 
situation, sent the Fifth Corps that night across 
Hatcher's Run to just south west of Petersbiu-g, 
and faced them towards it." If he had done so, 
there would have been a "diversion" on our end 
of the line as well as elsewhere, and with music 
and dancing; for this would have called us to 
disprove one of the very doubtful axioms of 
physics, that "two bodies cannot occupy the same 
space at the same time," with such pyrotechnic 
celebration as two clouds charged with opposite 
electricities exhibit when driven to bivouac to- 
gether in the same field of the heavens. We should 
have camped inside the rebel lines, and a bedlam 
of a bivouac that would have been. 

After their defeat at Five Forks, the cavalry of 
both the Lees joined Rosser at the Ford crossing 
of Hatcher's Run, and then drew back on that 

i84 The Passing of the Armies 

road to the Southside Railroad crossing. There 
were gathered also the fugitives from Pickett's 
and Johnson's Divisions, covered by the remainder 
of those divisions that had not been in the fight, 
— Hunton's Brigade of Pickett's Division, and 
Wise's, Gracie's (commanded by Colonel Sanf ord) , 
and Fulton's of Johnson's Division, all under com- 
mand of General R. H. Anderson. Their ultimate 
destination was to cover the enemy's right flank 
at Sutherland's Station. These would have been 
unpleasant fellows to camp with on the night of 
April 1st. 

Humphreys, finding the entrenchments in his 
front impregnable, at about midnight sent Miles 
up the White Oak Road to Sheridan. But at day- 
light Sheridan faced him right about, and with two 
divisions of the Fifth Corps following, pushed back 
down the White Oak Road to attack the Claiborne 
flank, — ^where we had left it on the night of the 
thirty-first. Meantime, this morning of April 2d 
saw the splendid and triumphant assault of our army 
upon the outer Petersburg defenses. Humphreys, 
learning of this at about nine o'clock, attacked 
the works in his own front along the eastern end of 
the White Oak Road, defended by McGowan's, 
MacRay's, Scales', and Cook's Brigades of Hill's 
Corps commanded by Heth, and forced them out 
of their works by their right flank towards the 
Claiborne Road. Humphreys followed them up 
with his two divisions, and receiving word from 
Miles that he was returning towards him, ordered 
the whole Second Corps to pursue the enemy along 

The Week of Flying Fights 185 

the Claiborne Road towards Sutherland's Station 
with a view to cutting off the retreat of the fugi- 
tives from Wright's and Ord's attacks, and closing 
in on Petersburg. Sheridan, arriving at the Clai- 
borne Road and learning this, thereupon faces about 
the Fifth Corps, after having, strangely enough, 
given Miles permission to attack the enemy 
there, and marches his men back over the White 
Oak Road to Five Forks, and pushes on by the 
Ford Road up to Hatcher's Run. What lost labor 
for Miles and the Fifth Corps, running empty ex- 
press up and down the White Oak Road! The 
shuttlecock was flying again. In the meantime 
Humphreys advancing with the two divisions to 
join Miles for the contemplated movement on the 
Claiborne flank and Sutherland's, having apprised 
General Meade of his intention, finds his action 
disapproved by his superiors, and receives orders 
to leave Miles and move his two other divisions 
off by the Boyd ton Road towards Petersburg and 
form on the left of the Sixth Corps. This, of 
course, left Miles to Sheridan, and Sheridan had 
now left Miles. 

As these apparently absurd performances in- 
volve again the action and honor of the Fifth 
Corps, it is proper to bring them under examination. 
The accounts of the affair of Miles at Sutherland's 
Station given by General Badeau, General Grant, 
General Sheridan, and General Humphreys involve 
irreconcilable differences; and it is necessary to 
form our judgments on the subject by taking into 
account the means of knowledge, and probable 

1 86 The Passinsf of the Armies 


motives of action and of utterance, which go to 
establish the credibility of witnesses. 

First we are prone to wonder how it could be 
that such a man as General Sheridan, — who does 
not reconsider his determinations, — when within 
less than two miles of the intended point of attack, 
should suddenly retire with his whole command, 
and leave Miles to fight the battle alone. It seems 
equally strange that General Himiphreys should 
nearly at the same time turn and march off in 
the opposite direction, towards Petersburg. It is 
certainly a curious conjuncture that both Meade 
and Sheridan should be pulling away from Miles' 
high-toned division and the very respectable 
company of Confederates about Sutherland's as 
if they were not fit for their seeing. 

Sheridan gives for his action a reason which 
appears sufficient, and adds an opinion which is 
significant. He says: "On the north side of 
Hatcher's Run, I overtook Miles, who was anxious 
to attack, and had a very fine and spirited division. 
I gave him permission; but about this time General 
Humphreys came up, and receiving notice from 
General Meade that he would take command of 
Miles' Division, I relinquished it at once, and 
faced the Fifth Corps to the rear. I afterwards 
regretted giving up this division, as I believe the 
enemy could at the time have been crushed at 
Sutherland's depot. I returned to Five Forks, and 
marched out the Ford Road towards Hatcher's 

Two things are to be noted here: the reason why 

The Week of Flying Fights 187 

Sheridan did not join the attack here, but released 
himself from the fight and Miles from his jurisdic- 
tion; and also his belief that this was the place at 
which to crush the enemy. Some of the rest of us 
had thought the same way on the 31st of March. 
This testimony is also confirmed by the opinion of 
the modest Humphreys, who cannot help saying 
that if the Second Corps could have been permitted 
to continue its march in the morning, "the whole 
force of the enemy there would probably have been 
captured." This cumulative testimony shows 
what was lost by the antipathy of polarities, in the 
presence of Miles, the mysterious repellant. 

In reflecting on the probabilities of Meade's mo- 
tive in ordering Humphreys away from Miles* Di- 
vision when Sheridan was approaching it with the 
intention of making an important fight there, it ap- 
pears more than likely that Meade had a strong 
intimation that Sheridan must have undisturbed 
control of the entire operations on the extreme 
left. To this effect we have the direct, although 
perhaps unintentional, testimony of a most com- 
petent witness. General Badeau, Grant's military 
secretary, in his Military History of U. S. Grant, 
vol. iii., p. 624, says: "Grant, however, intended 
to leave Sheridan in command of Miles, and indeed 
in full control of all the operations in this quarter 
of the field; and supposing his views to have been 
carried out, it was at this juncture that he ordered 
Humphreys to be faced to the right and moved 
towards Petersburg." This appears to settle that 
part of the question, and takes the burden entirely 

1 88 The Passing of the Armies 

from Meade's shoulders, which he never seems to 
have had the heart to roll off for himself. Sheri- 
dan's motive, too, is readily seen by the same light. 
When he thought Miles had been ordered to resume 
relations with his own corps commander, Sheridan 
wished to have nothing to do with the fight, 
although in his estimation this was the supreme 
opportunity for "crushing the enemy." 

It is a little confusing to try to reconcile this 
testimony and explanation, with General Grant's 
statement in his offiical report, that learning the 
condition of things on the morning of April 2d, 
Sheridan "returned Miles to his proper command." 
If so, why did Sheridan give Miles permission to 
attack at Sutherland's? And why, if the smashing 
up of the rebel right flank was so easy to achieve 
here, did he tvirn his back on Miles on the very 
edge of battle, and leave to him the solitary honor 
and peril of confronting there Heth's, and what 
of Johnson's and Pickett's Divisions and Fitzhugh 
Lee's cavalry, falling back that afternoon before 
the Fifth Corps advance, should get into his front? 
Certainly there were no other of the enemy west 
of this point at that hour worth Sheridan's march- 
ing the Fifth Corps ten miles round to hunt after. 

It is a striking coincidence that Sheridan with 
the Fifth Corps should have come so near to Miles 
and the enemy, — two miles on the south of them, — 
in the morning, at the moment when Humphreys 
was first coming up with his two divisions for the 
fight he anticipated, and then again, after the 
middle of the afternoon, have come within two 

The Week of Flying Fights 189 

miles of Sutherland's and of Miles fighting, on the 
Cox Road west of them, and also just at the time 
when Humphreys was "returning" from the direc- 
tion of Petersburg with his division ordered by 
Grant to go up to Miles' relief. The play of 
attraction and repulsion is something deep-lying 
in the "law" of forces. 

An effort has also been made to give the impres- 
sion that these two appearances of Sheridan, on the 
right and on the left of Miles at Sutherland's, were 
moments of one and the same action, — parts of 
one undivided movement. Whereas they were 
separated by a wider detour, possibly imperiling 
quite as much as the eventful one of Crawford at 
Five Forks, where Warren was the chief victim. 

There are so many curious jumbles of coincidence 
and dislocation in the accounts of Sheridan's 
movements that day, — if we may not say in the 
movements themselves, — that readers who are not 
on the alert to keep things clear in their minds are 
liable to lose their bearings. Badeau "bothers" 
matters very much; as when he says (vol. iii., p. 
520), "At noon the left wing under Sheridan 
was still unheard from." It would seem that the 
delirium of writing history had reached the stupor 
symptom somewhere. Grant must have known 
that Sheridan had dropped Miles and gone back 
to start for a longer run. We have Grant's state- 
ment in his official report that he got worried 
about Miles after a while, left as he was alone 
when he ordered Humphreys away from him, and 
Sheridan had abandoned him. He adds, in terms 

190 The Passing of the Armies 

implying censure of Hiimphreys: "I directed 
Humphreys to send a division back to his relief. 
He went himself." It required considerable bold- 
ness in Himiphreys to "go himself" with one of his 
divisions. Warren had tried that, and it took him 
so far he never got back. Whatever the much 
buffeted Humphreys could have done, in obeying 
orders, he would have been left with only one of his 
divisions somewhere, and we cannot blame him 
for trying to get where he had a chance of getting 
his eye in range of two of them, when a mixed 
fight was going on. And Grant ordering Himi- 
phrey's divisions makes us wonder where Meade 
was, supposed to command the corps of his army. 
Though raised to functions of a higher power, the 
ratio seems the same as that of Warren and 
Humphreys to their commands, — the instinctive 
dignity and abnormal solicitude of the hen with 
one chicken. When Humphreys got to Miles, 
that gallant officer had beaten the enemy from their 
last stand; but the most of them had got off be- 
tween Meade and Sheridan. 

General Grant, with the sincere kindness of his 
prepossessions, makes a special effort to have 
General Sheridan appear as a direct participator 
in the victory at Sutherland's. He allows Badeau 
to speak to this effect. And he himself says in his 
Memoirs (vol. ii., p. 451), "Sheridan then took 
the enemy at Sutherland's Station, on the reverse 
side from where Miles was, and the two together 
captured the place, with a large number of prisoners 
and some pieces of artillery, and put the remainder, 

The Week of Flying Fights 191 

portions of three Confederate corps, to flight. 
Sheridan followed, and drove them until night, 
when further pursuit was stopped. Miles biv- 
ouacked for the night on the ground which he with 
Sheridan had so handsomely carried by assault." 
It was sometime before noon when Miles made his 
first attack, and quite as late as 3 p.m. when he 
made his last and completely successful one. At 
this time the Fifth Corps, the head of Sheridan's 
colimin, had got around as far as Cox's Station on 
the Southside Railroad, within two miles of Suther- 
land's, and was tearing up the rails there. Our 
column was not near enough to Miles's fight to take 
part in the actual assault, although no doubt 
its rapid and close advance on the enemy's right 
had some influence on the victory. But we never 
thought of claiming part of the glory that belonged 
to Miles, — except that he was not long ago a Fifth 
Corps boy. 

The truth is that after all the pains to secure for 
Sheridan the glory of whatever was achieved on the 
left, or as Badeau says, "in that quarter of the 
field," when all came to the very field where by 
unanimous consent the enemy's main force could 
have been "crushed," and in fact was broken away 
with less complete results by Miles' gallant fight, 
Sheridan came perilously near — so near in truth 
that the difference is inappreciable by the human 
mind — to being found "not in the fight," by 
reason of the far-reaching effect of his recoil from 
the suddenly appearing Humphreys, who rose 
upon him at the crowning moment when he gave 

192 The Passing of the Armies 

Miles permission to open the "crushing" fight. 
Shakespeare puts it: 

Ay, now, I see 'tis true; 
For the blood-bolter^d Banquo smiles upon me, 
And points at them for his. 

It is a relief to resume the plain account of our 
pursuit of tangible beings evading Five Forks. 
It seems like passing from war to peace. Early on 
the morning of the 2d our cavalry drew off north- 
westerly from the Ford Road crossing of Hatcher's 
Run to cut off some rebel cavalry reported to have 
made a push in that direction. Sheridan having 
returned from the Claiborne Road with the rest 
of the Fifth Corps, at about noon our column 
moved out, my own command in the advance, 
down the Ford Road. At Hatcher's Run a vigor- 
ous demonstration of the enemy's skirmishers to 
prevent our crossing was soon dislodged by a 
gallant attack by Colonel Sniper with the 185th 
New York. Throwing forward a strong skirmish 
line, in command of Colonel Cunningham of the 
32d Massachusetts, we pressed on for the Southside 
Railroad. Hearing the noise of an approaching 
train from the direction of Petersburg, I pushed 
forward our skirmishers to catch it. A wild, 
shriek of the steam-whistle brought our main line 
up at the double-quick. There we find the train 
held up, Cunningham mounted on the engine 
pulling the whistle-valve wide open to announce 
the arrival at a premature station of the last train 
that tried to run the gauntlet out of Petersburg 

The Week of Flying Fights 193 

under the Confederate flag. This train was 
crowded with quite a mixed company as to color, 
character, and capacity, but united in the single 
aim of forming a personally-conducted southern 
tour. The officers and soldiers we were obliged 
to regard as prisoners of war: the rest we let go in 
peace, if they could find it. It was now about one 
o'clock. It is to be noted that this train appears to 
have had no difficulty in getting by Sutherland's 
at that hour. 

I was now directed to advance and, if possible, 
get possession of the Cox Road. This we found to 
be well defended. A force of about ten thousand 
men formed a strong line in front of us, but with 
that "light order" of disposition and movement 
which betokens a rear-guard. As this is sometimes, 
however, the mask for formidable resistance, I 
prepared to carry the position whatever it might 
prove to be. Accordingly, I threw forward the 
185th New York in extended but compact order, 
covering the enemy's front, brought the two 
battalions of the 198th Pennsylvania into line of 
battle in support, placed the 189th New York, 
Lieut. -Colonel Townsend commanding, in a large 
tract of woods on the right with orders to move left 
in front, ready to face outwards and protect that 
flank which looked toward Sutherland's, and ad- 
vanced briskly upon the opposing lines. They 
proved to be Fitzhugh Lee's Division of cavalry 
dismounted, which from character and experience 
had acquired a habit of conservative demeanor. 
But a strong dash broke them up, and we pressed 

194 The Passing of the Armies 

them slowly before us along the Cox Road. An- 
ticipating the burden of the retreat from the direc- 
tion of Petersburg to fall this way, I prepared to 
hold this road against all comers, in the meantime 
pushing forward to the bank of a branch of Hatch- 
er's Run a mile short of Sutherland's. Here 
my command was held in line and on the alert 
while the rest of the Fifth Corps were engaged in 
tearing up the Southside Railroad between us and 
Cox's Station in our rear. We were on the flank 
and rear of the enemy fighting Miles, but the stress 
of that fire died away as we approached. Miles 
had utterly routed the enemy. No doubt our 
advancing along the Cox Road towards this point, 
and also our preventing Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry 
from joining the resistance to Miles, had some 
considerable effect on the minds of the enemy, as 
well as in determining the direction of their retreat, 
and in so far helped Miles win his victory; but 
this could hardly be construed as part of the action. 

Our cavalry shortly afterwards coming up in our 
rear, Sheridan with them pursued the fugitives 
along their retreat, now northwesterly, our rear 
division, Crawford's, joining in a skirmish at about 
dusk. We turned off the Cox Road to the Namo- 
zine, and moving out about two miles, bivouacked 
at the junction of this road with the River Road, 
which here turns north, leading to the Appomattox. 

This was a hard day for my command. Being 
in the advance and in contact with the enemy, we 
had to move as nearly as possible in line of battle, 
taking a wide breadth of that broken country, 

The Week of Flying Fights 195 

through brush and tangle, swamp and mire. Eight 
hours of this right upon such severe experience the 
two days and nights before left the men utterly- 
exhausted. But they gathered the sticks for their 
little fires, and unrolled their slender haversacks, 
disclosing treasures that were mostly remnants, 
whether pork or sugar, biscuit or blankets — ■ 
things provided for their earthly sustenance while 
they were contending for ideals to come true for 
them only in some other life, or far-away form. 
Sic vos no7t vohis — not you for yourselves — says 
Virgil to his bees and birds building nests and 
storing up food, mostly for others. Strange 
shadows fall across the glamour of glory. The law 
of sharing for the most of mankind seems to be that 
each shall give his best according to some inner 
commandment, and receive according to the decree 
of some far divinity, whose face is of a stranger, 
and whose heart is alien to the motives and sym- 
pathies that animate his own. 

At daylight on the 3d we moved out on the 
River Road on the south side of the Appomattox, 
with the purpose of cutting off the enemy's retreat 
from Petersburg. This day was remarkable in the 
fact that then, for once, we had somebody "ahead" 
of the Fifth Corps except the enemy. The cavalry 
were ahead this time, and that incident did not 
add to the comfort of marching in the mud, which 
in its nature, and without previous preparation, 
was a sufficient test for human powers, physical 
and moral. We had, however, the stimulus of hear- 
ing in exultant and wildly exaggerated phrase of the 

196 The Passing- of the Armies 


flight of the Confederate government from Rich- 
mond, the full retreat of Lee's army from Virginia, 
and the downfall of the Confederacy. The plain 
facts were enough for us : Lee's army was in retreat 
for Danville, the Richmond government broken 
up, and the Confederacy at least mounted on its 
last legs. The splendid work of the right wing of 
our army on the 2d had set this in motion, and we 
still thought our restless behavior on the extreme 
left had at least induced Lee to notify Davis on the 
evening of that day that he should be obliged to 
abandon his lines during the night and would 
endeavor to reach Danville, North Carolina. 
Davis anticipated him with military promptitude, 
and succeeded in getting off with his personal 
effects and the Confederate archives by the Dan- 
ville Road. 

Grant had ordered a general assault on the 
interior lines of Petersburg and Richmond early 
on this morning of the 3d, but it was then dis- 
covered that they had been evacuated dtiring the 
night. These places were immediately occupied 
by oiu- troops, and General Warren was assigned 
to the command of the forces in and around 
Petersburg and City Point. The order given by 
Lee for the general retreat had been put into 
execution early in the evening of the 2d; Long- 
street and the troops that had been in our main 
front, including also Gordon's Corps, had crossed 
to the north side of the Appomattox, directing 
their course towards Amelia Court House on the 
Danville Railroad about equidistant from Rich- 

The Week of Flying Fights 197 

mond and Petersburg. Those with whom we had 
been principally engaged, Pickett's and Bushrod 
Johnson's Divisions, with Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry, 
moved up the south side of the Appomattox, 
closely followed by us. The cavalry ahead were 
pressing on the enemy's rear all day, and just at 
dusk of the evening came upon a strong line of 
Lee's cavalry with Hunton's and Wise's infantry 
brigades boldly confronting us at the crossing of 
Deep Creek. The cavalry had forced them away 
in a sharp engagement before we got up to share 
in it. We could not help admiring the courage and 
pluck of these poor fellows, now so broken and 
hopeless, both for their cause and for them- 
selves. A long and hard road was before them, 
whatever fate should be at the end of it. We 
had a certain pride in their manliness, and a 
strong "fellow-feeling," however determined we 
were to destroy the political pretension which they 
had accepted as their cause. Before morning of 
the 4th General Sheridan, learning that Lee was 
trying to assemble his army near Amelia Court 
House, ordered the Fifth Corps to make all dis- 
patch for Jetersville, a point about eight miles 
south of that place, to intercept Lee's communica- 
tions by the Danville Road, while a column of our 
cavalry was sent around to strike that road still 
south of us and then move up to join us at Jeters- 
ville. Here, after a brisk march, — thirty-five miles, 
Sheridan says, — we arrived late in the day, and 
before midnight the Fifth Corps was in line of 
battle across the Danville Railroad, strongly 

198 The Passing of the Armies 

entrenched, effectually cutting Lee's plans and 
therefore in a position where we were pretty sure 
to be ourselves attacked with desperation in the 
morning, by Lee's whole army. This expectation 
held us at high tension on the morning of the 5th, 
waiting for the Army of the Potomac to come up 
and secretly hoping in our interior confessionals 
that Lee would also wait for them. 

We had all expected a great battle at Jetersville. 
A sonorous name is not necessary for a famous field. 
And there was a little French flavor about this 
name that might have brought livelier associations 
than "jetsam," of which also there was plenty 
before the week was over. Sheridan thought Lee 
missed his great opportunity in not attacking us 
here before any reinforcements got up. We shall 
not censure Lee. If he had doubts about the issue 
of a fight with the Fifth Corps we willingly accord 
him the benefit of his doubt. It appears, however, 
that Lee being informed by "Rooney" Lee, his 
son, that Sheridan had a heavy force of infantry 
here, gave up the attack and turned his columns 
off by a more northerly route, sending his trains 
by the best protected roads towards the Danville 
communications. So narrow was our chance of 
being confronted by Lee's whole army. And so 
great was our satisfaction at Lee's opinion of the 
Fifth Corps. 

Our Second and Sixth Corps had been trying to 
follow the Fifth all the morning of the 4th, but 
had been stopped a long way back by one of those 
common, and therefore presumably necessary, but 

The Week of Flying Fights 199 

unspeakably vexatious, incidents of a forced 
march, — somebody else cutting in on the road, 
claiming to have the right of way. The cavalry 
had come in on them from one of the river-cross- 
ings where they had been heading off Lee from his 
nearest road to Amelia Court House, and prece- 
dence being given the cavalry in order, our infantry 
corps had to mass up and wait till they could get 
the road. The fields were in such condition that 
troops could not march over them, and the roads 
were not much better for the rear of a column, with 
all its artillery and wagons. These delayed corps 
were not allowed to get the rheiunatism by resting 
on the damp ground, but were favored with the 
well-proved prophylactic of lively work cordu- 
roying roads, so that they could have something 
substantial to set foot on. At half-past two in the 
afternoon of the 5th, the advance of the Second 
Corps began to arrive in rear of our anxious, 
expectant, front-faced lines, and form in upon our 
left, soon followed by our Sixth Corps, which in 
like manner formed upon our right. It needs not 
be told what kind of a greeting we gave each other 
there. These corps, what had they not done since 
they parted on the old lines a week before! That 
Army of the Potomac together once again, at that 
turning, burning point dividing the storied past 
from the swift-coming end of its history. 

At one o'clock that afternoon my command was 
suddenly called out to support the cavalry, which 
returning from a heavy reconnoissance had struck 
one of the enemy's trains moving off on our left 

200 The Passing of the Armies 

flank, and having captured i8o wagons and five 
pieces of artillery, and destroyed the wagons, was 
bringing in the artillery and a large number of 
prisoners, and was severely attacked by a strong 
body of cavalry and infantry, not far out from our 
lines. This had made things lively for a time. We 
had not much to do, however, when we got up to 
them. Or perhaps that prolific and redundant 
principle of anticipation, by which a thing seems 
so much better when you want it than when you 
get it, and, vice versa, so much worse when you 
fear it than when you front it, may have availed 
here. The so-called moral effect of seeing and 
knowing that our plodding infantry had covered 
their tracks was perhaps stronger than we could 
have made good if we had been more severely 
tested in the flying fight. But our cavalry was a 
queer sight. Before they had destroyed the 
wagons, they had apparently had a custom-house 
inspection, and confiscated many, various, and 
marvelous "goods," — contraband, and some of 
them contradictory, of war. It looked as if not 
only the grocers and tinsmiths, but also the 
jewelers and possibly the milliners, of Petersburg 
and Richmond had been disappointed in a venture 
they had hopefully consigned to southern ports. 
It was almost provocative of levity, — quite "to the 
prejudice of good order and military discipline, " — 
to see otir grave cavalry forming their flowing 
lines of battle with silver coffee-pots and sugar- 
bowls thumping at their saddle-straps, and when 
they rallied in return to see their front fluttering 

The Week of Flying Fights 201 

with domestic symbols, and even "favors" of the 
boudoir, as if a company of troubadours had dis- 
mounted a squadron of crusaders between Joppa 
and Jerusalem. But it was with a joy deeper far 
than merriment that I came in touch with our 
splendid old First Maine Cavalry, famed for man- 
hood and soldierhood then and ever since, with 
Smith at their head straight and solid and luminous 
as a lighthouse. 

Sheridan, however, wished to move up and 
attack Lee, even before the other corps got up to 
us. Meade, having arrived in person in advance of 
even the Second Corps, was unwilling to move out 
without the other corps to attack Lee with forty 
thousand men in hand and in position, — if the 
reports which Sheridan relied upon were true. 
This decision of Meade, Badeau says, was "much to 
Sheridan's mortification." Still all he could do 
about it was to "tell his father." He sent a 
messenger to Grant saying that it was of utmost 
importance that Grant should come to him in 
person. Meade had been very ill for the last two 
days, — we cannot much wonder at that, — and 
had asked Sheridan to put the Second Corps and 
also the Sixth into position as he might desire, 
while he retired for a little rest. Grant, coming 
promptly up in the course of the night, held a 
conference with Sheridan on the situation, and 
especially, it now appears, on Meade's supposed or 
imputed plan "of moving out to his right flank," 
whatever that might be conjectured to mean, 
"and giving Lee the coveted opportunity of escap- 

202 The Passing of the Armies 

ing us, and putting us in rear of him." Grant and 
Sheridan then went, after midnight, to see Meade, 
when General Grant says he "explained to Meade 
that we did not want to follow the enemy, but to 
get ahead of him, and that his (Meade's) orders 
would allow the enemy to escape." It seems in- 
credible that an officer of the position, experience, 
and responsibility of General Meade could have 
listened patiently to this imputation of ignorance 
and stupidity. A movement to Meade's " right 
flank," as his army was faced, would have carried 
him back to our old entrenched lines. It is absurd 
to imagine Meade ever intended this imdertaking. 
And it may be questioned whether the movement 
we did make under Sheridan's direction and 
Grant's authority and orders for Meade to execute 
did not immediately "put us in rear of Lee's army" 
and keep us there until the long, hard circuit to 
Appomattox Court House was run. 

This kind of history makes it proper to look at 
matters a little in detail. And for the first thing 
as to the state of mind and purpose of General 
Meade, against whom such belittling reference has 
been made. 

The last week's experiences had worked together 
to make Meade in truth seriously ill. Still he held 
up in spirit and body like a martyr. When Sheri- 
dan with the Fifth Corps at Jetersville on the 5th 
sent word to Meade asking for the other corps of 
his army, Meade, lying on his rude couch scarcely 
able to move, shows no lack of soldierly spirit or in- 
deed of magnanimity. He dispatches Grant: 'T 

The Week of Flying Fights 203 

have ordered Humphreys to move out at all hazards 
at 3 A.M. ; but if the rations can be issued to them 
prior to that, to march as soon as issued; or if the 
temper of the men, on hearing the dispatch of 
General Sheridan communicated to them, leads 
to the belief that they will march with spirit, then 
to push on at once, as soon as they can be got under 
arms." In his order then issued Meade says: 
"The troops will be put in motion regardless of 
every consideration but the one of ending the war. 
. . . The Major-General commanding feels that 
he has but to recall to the Army of the Potomac 
the glorious record of its repeated and gallant 
contests with the Army of Northern Virginia, and 
when he assures the army that in the opinion of so 
distinguished an officer as Major-General Sheridan, 
it only requires these sacrifices to bring this long 
and desperate contest to a triumphant issue, the 
men of this army will show that they are as willing 
to die of fatigue and of starvation as they have 
ever shown themselves ready to fall by the bullets 
of the enemy." 

This may not carry all the incitements of per- 
suasive eloquence; but whatever concentric or 
eccentric meanings it may bear, it is the testimony 
of a high and heroic soul. He was the senior of 
Sheridan in rank and service and in command, and 
had now begun to comprehend the plans for 
Sheridan in the coming campaign beyond the part 
of commander of the cavalry forces. But he sends 
him this word: "The Second and Sixth Corps shall 
be with you as soon as possible. In the meantime 

204 The Passing of the Armies 

your wishes or suggestions as to any movement 
other than the simple one of overtaking you will be 
promptly acceded to by me, regardless of any other 
consideration than the vital one of destroying the 
Army of Northern Virginia." Deep-drawn is this 
simple language: deeplier significant the more one 
ponders it. We have the high authority of General 
Adam Badeau that "this is the stuff of which 
commanders are made." That is, — self-effacement 
and renunciation at the behest of a rival ! We are 
not so sure about this definition of the proper 
"stuff" for the composition of commanders; but 
certainly this message is an almost sublime utter- 
ance of a gentleman and a patriot, — an unselfish 
and magnanimous man. To my mind, it seems like 
the last words of an Algernon Sidney or a Montrose : 
"The noblest place where man can die is where he 
dies for man." 

In this same spirit he rises from his couch of 
suffering and passing his troops upon the road, 
finds his Fifth Corps in advance of Sheridan's 
cavalry, square across the Danville Railroad, 
faced towards Lee's then approaching army, and 
asks Sheridan to place the rest of the Army of the 
Potomac, as it comes up, in such order of battle as 
Sheridan may think proper, and trusting that all 
will be done in the spirit that has animated his 
whole movement thus far, asking only that this 
overmarched advance shall not be hurled against 
Lee's whole entrenched army before our main 
body is all up, Meade sinks down to his couch for a 
respite at least of mental suffering. Here he is 

The Week of Flying Fights 205 

visited by Grant and Sheridan with the very dis- 
tinct intimation that his plans are weak and silly, 
and that Sheridan's plans would now be put into 
execution. Then, to sleep, we may suppose. And 
in that sleep what dreams might come, those who 
watched his troubled rest spoke not what they 
divined. For it needed not vision nor prophet, nor 
Urim nor Thummim to read through the palpitat- 
ing air that another sun had arisen. Samuel had 
already anointed David and Saul could get no 
answer from the Lord. It needed no far-sighted 
glasses to see that Meade was no longer in reality 
commander of the Army of the Potomac but only 
the vanishing simulacrum of it. Was he dreaming 
perchance of the affront offered him by the false 
charge of an intended "right flank" movement 
which would lead him past the enemy's rear? Or 
lamenting in helpless agony the lost opportunity 
of striking a decisive blow at Lee's last vital stand 
had he not been sent off by Grant and Sheridan to 
Amelia Court House whence Lee had already fled? 
For it was well known to some whose business it 
was to know, that Meade had planned to move in a 
very different direction and on shorter lines on the 
morning of April 6th, and strike Longstreet at 
Rice's Station on the Lynchburg Road where there 
is every reason to believe he would have brought 
about the beginning of the end. Alas for Meade! 
He never saw his army together again, — not even 
in the grand review at Washington, — from which 
time too he sunk from sight. 

To return to our story it will be borne in mind 

2o6 The Passing of the Armies 

that the Fifth Corps and the cavalry held Jeters- 
ville from the afternoon of the 4th of April to the 
afternoon of the 5th, in the face of Lee's whole 
army. But as things were before morning Sheridan 
returns the Fifth Corps to the command of Meade, 
an act which he states he "afterwards regretted" 
— a conciliatory phrase which had become habitual. 
Assured by him that Lee's army is at Amelia Court 
House, Grant orders Meade to move out in that 
direction in the order of battle in which his corps 
were already formed, to attack the enemy in posi- 
tion there, while Sheridan with the cavalry should 
take the direction Meade had intended for his 
army, — towards the Danville and Lynchburg road- 
crossings. We had moved in this way five miles 
of the eight, when Griffin learns that Lee's army is 
not at Amelia Court House, having left there on the 
evening before, and being now well on its way 
around our left flank. Humphreys caught sight of 
some of Lee's rear columns moving on a road about 
four miles northwest of us, and immediately sent 
out a detachment to cut them in two. It was no 
part of Lee's plan to wait to be attacked by our 
whole army, and on learning of our gathering at 
Jetersville he began his retiring movement at eight 
o'clock in the evening, sending his several corps by 
all the roads leading in the desired direction, either 
for Danville or for Lynchburg. So Meade was 
actually sent out with the foregone certainty of 
doing what he had no thought of doing, but was 
charged with having contemplated, — letting Lee 
pass him, and putting us in his rear. 

The Week of Flying Fights 207 

Meade at once faces his army about and directs 
his several corps by different roads to follow, out- 
march, and intercept Lee's flying army. Griffin 
is sent by the most northerly and roundabout way, 
through Paineville (well-named), Ligontown, and 
Sailor's Creek, — in doing this, observe, moved 
from the extreme left to the extreme right of the 
army. Humphreys moves on the left of the Fifth 
Corps to Deatonsville, and thence towards Sailor's 
Creek, while the Sixth Corps under Wright moves 
from Jetersville by the shortest roads to the same 
rendezvous. Now began the terrible race and 
running fights, swift, bold, and hard; both armies 
about equally tasked and tried, and both driven 
to the prayer: "Give us this day our daily bread." 

We could not well understand our being moved 
by so roundabout a way to reach our destination. 
It is explained, however, by a passage in General 
Grant's Memoirs (vol. ii., p. 473), which consider- 
ing the pressure upon time and strength and gener- 
ous resolution falling upon our men, is remarkable 
as showing what motives sometimes control mili- 
tary movements. It is remarkable also in showing 
what part General Meade had in commanding his 
army corps. The passage reads: "When the move 
towards Amelia Court House had commenced that 
morning, I ordered Wright's Corps, which was on 
the extreme right, to be moved to the left, past the 
whole army, to take the place of Griffin's, and 
ordered the latter at the same time to move by, 
and place itself on the right. The object of this 
movement was," proceeds this naive narration. 

2o8 The Passing of the Armies 


"to get the Sixth Corps, Wright's, next to the 
cavalry, with which they had formerly served so 
harmoniously and so efficiently in the valley of 

The Sixth Corps now remained with the cavalry 
and under Sheridan's direct command, until after 
the surrender. 

This is in truth a gracious reference to the work 
of the Sixth Corps before the onset of Early when 
Wright had already made a stand and was turning 
the tide backward as Sheridan came riding "from 
Winchester twenty miles away." But the last 
remark will provoke a smile. The wish was father 
to the thought, no doubt; but the fact was a "bar 
sinister." The Sixth Corps was under Sheridan's 
direct command only in the one fight at Sailor's 
Creek, and Sheridan did not get sight of it again, — • 
not even in the grand review at the disbandment 
of the armies. Moreover, for that one fight, 
Sheridan complains that although Wright obeyed 
his orders, he refused to make his report to him 
until positively ordered to do so by the Lieutenant- 
General himself. 

Lee had got ahead of us; we were mortified at 
that. But he found his way a "hard road to 
travel." His hope was now to get to the Danville 
junction at Burkesville, where he expected rations, 
and possibly a clear road to Danville or Lynchburg. 
So he pushes the heads of his flying colimms along 
the roads running between the Southside and the 
Appomattox, a path traversed by many and diffi- 
cult streams, only to find at every crossing some 

The Week of Flying Fights 209 

hot vanguard of Sheridan or Hinnphreys or Wright 
or Griffin, or at last of Ord; and each time, too, 
after fighting more or less severe to be beaten off 
with ever new disaster, wasting powers, and 
spreading demoralization. Yet stretching on with 
ever increasing desperation. ... As one has 
seen some poor worm upon the forestick, girdled 
with fire, again and again attempt to cross the 
deadly edge and recoil writhing from the touch; 
wearing out his life in the frantic effort to save it; 
his struggles the more frenzied and wild the less 
his chances are — so now for these brave spirits 
who held together for manhood's sake in the name 
of what they already felt to be a doomed Con- 
federacy. Virginia was but a prison-pen; the 
Southside Railroad was the dead-line; the river 
the Lethean stream. There was blood at every 
bridge and ford. Yet higher and higher up road 
and river stretched the two armies; one with the 
frenzy of a forlorn hope; the other with the energy 
of fierce resolve. 

Our privilege was to push things; and there was 
no default of that. Our advanced infantry corps 
were operating with cavalry; which means doing 
cavalry -work marching and infantry- work fighting. 
And the example of the cavalry was superb. 

For all our haste, we moved with caution; 
skirmishers and flankers well out; every moment 
looking for some hard-pressed rear-guard to turn 
and give battle, to gain time for their crowding 
columns ahead to pass some obstacle, or reach some 
favorable ground for respite or defense. For the 

210 The Passing of the Armies 


most part the road of our pursuit was hard and 
smooth and clean; with no particular marks of 
disorder save here and there a dead man by the 
wayside, or an empty haversack which want had 
made superfluous, or a musket which haste and 
hopelessness had made too heavy. 

Now we come to low ground where the ruts are 
axle deep and the road strewn with wreckage: 
broken-down forage trains, empty but unwieldy; 
abandoned cannon and battery-wagons stuck fast 
in the mire, — the trembling mules still harnessed 
to the wreck; horses starved and overtasked, but 
still saddled or packed, turned loose by their 
masters, whose future interests so outweighed the 
present that they couldn't stop to ride; queer 
Virginia farm-carts, as queerly freighted, with 
which some ignorant citizen was bearing off his 
household gods, and goddesses as well, fleeing 
before the Yankees with the full persuasion that 
they were after them with hoofs and horns in the 
likeness of their master, the evil one. ' 

Now we come to the deep creek, where the 
fugitives have destroyed the bridge behind them to 
check our oncoming, but checking more effectually 
their own followers; strewn, the stream, with 
sunken and floating remnants of almost every 
kind that man strives to put together and fate is 
busy to take to pieces; betokening how many, 
soldier and civilian, have reached the stream too 
late for the bridge, and have attempted the danger- 
ous ford; while crowding on the banks are still 

' Of. R. R. xlvi., pp. 733-1102, Serial 97. 

The Week of Flying Fights 211 

stranger vehicles and convoys; wild-looking men 
in homespun gray, standing sulkily by, or speak- 
ing only to insist that they are civilians and not 
soldiers, — what they know of prison-pens not being 
attractive, as compared with starving in the open 
barrens; sometimes white men, or what seem to 
be, declaring they are not white, but colored; — 
a claim not often set up in that section of the 
Republic, though there might be some truth in it 
for all that ; for there was in those days a whimsical 
variance between law and fact, — between being 
actually white and legally white, — as indeed under 
all climes and constitutions one may be found 
physically one color and morally the other. 

But sometimes there was no mistake. For here 
we have come upon a waif of the deluge, — a token 
of the dispersion of peoples, the survival of the 
fittest, the stock and cradle of a race. Mounted on 
a pile of worldly goods that might have been 
blown together by the four winds, or rolled up by 
the waves of as many lost civilizations, crowded 
into a vehicle till it was a vehicle no longer, as it 
could neither carry nor go, sat supreme the irre- 
pressible "man and brother" himself, surrounded 
by his ebony tokens of the earth's replenish- 
ment, — proof and promise of plenty, — cheerful, 
hopeful, imperturbable, all of them alike, trust- 
ing to luck as ever, for all it seemed rather against 
them just then; bound for the promised land, and 
piously waiting a special dispensation from heaven 
in their behalf, some Moses hand that cleft the Red 
Sea before the chosen. 

212 The Passing of the Armies 

Obstacles like these give check to the pursuit. 
A bridge must be built that the ammunition wagons 
may pass dry. Loiterers and impatient voyagers 
are alike impressed for service. The pioneers 
search shores and woods and hamlets for timber 
and planks. The stalled forage wagons are 
dragged in to form the temporary piers. The 
mounted officers dash about to find a safe ford for 
the men. The most intrepid of them follow breast- 
deep, cartridge-boxes and haversacks borne upon 
the bayonets high above their heads, to keep both 
kinds of ammunition dry. Some enterprising 
surgeon or meandering chaplain, thinking to do 
better than the hard-headed pioneers or adventur- 
ous orderlies for the men's welfare, shouts from the 
middle of the stream above or below that he has 
found the ford, and in the midst of his jubilation 
suddenly sinks into an unforeseen hole, whence 
after stirring variations from plain song to rapid 
minor and staccato, and splurges of diminuendo 
and crescendo, he returns to the hither shore in 
dismal cadence and saturated conviction. 

Some men here, too, have their daintinesses as 
well as those who are delicately apparelled and 
live in kings' houses. It is hard to march in 
gurgling shoes after wading neck-deep. They 
wish to take off wet garments, assume the nether- 
most Highland costume, or even to emulate the 
Sandwich Island fellow-citizen in church array, 
and then stop to dry and dress again on the other 
side. But this dandyism cannot be indulged. 
Time is an essential element of this contract. Not 

The Week of Flying Fights 213 

a moment must the pursuit lose its semblance of 
forwardness if we mean to catch Lee's army. So 
each superior takes his own style of persuasion 
according to his conception of personal and official 
dignity. The higher the rank, the loftier the style. 
The corporals and sergeants coax; the captains 
command ; the colonels scold ; the generals scowl ; — 
and several who appear to have conscientious 
scruples against affirming, freely avail themselves 
of that other alternative which the laws so chari- 
tably provide. 

But fairly over at last, instead of halting any- 
where the column is pushed on at the "double 
quick," to make up for lost time. We climb the 
way, the narrow cut scarce wide enough for a 
single track, here again choked with abandoned 
artillery and entangled mules, whose strength 
succumbed after passing purgatory. The way is 
strewn with new tokens of the painful ascent for 
our leaders. Among these some quite unwelcome 
waifs, such as loaded percussion shells jolted out of 
the galloping chests, which for aught we know the 
blow of a horse's hoof might explode in our faces ; 
gun-carriages and caissons set on fire by the 
desperate fugitives, and when we pass them the 
flames already within a foot of the fuses and 
powder-bags. There is not much loitering about 
that sort of a camp-fire. Better crunch the earth 
with wet shoes for a good, dead pull than take the 
chance of being hung up to dry on a clay bank, or 
aired on a tree-top. 

Now we reach a spot where Sheridan had burst 

214 The Passing of the Armies 

across the flying column and left a black and 
withered track behind him like the lightning's path. 
Our orders are to destroy all military equipage we 
capture or overtake. The war had not ended then, 
and military necessity was both lawful and expe- 
dient rule. Such masses of war-material must not 
be left unspoiled behind us, for aught we can fore- 
see or foreordain by some chance of battle or of 
movement to fall into the enemy's hands and serve 
them against us again. War is destruction, — 
word and deed. So we make wild bonfires of wagon 
heaps and munitions, throw into the swamps and 
streams what we dare not risk ourselves to add to 
the lesser piles of ammunition capping the fire- 
stacks, and chop and slash the wheel-spokes of the 
gun carriages we cannot stop to burn. 

Forward again! On a fresh track. Suddenly 
the rattling musketry of the skirmishers ahead 
tells that we have struck the enemy's rear-guard. 
A bold battery of flying artillery runs up out of a 
cross-road on a hillside half a mile away, and opens 
back on the head of our column with case-shot and 
shell. This offers variety, which is said to be the 
spice of life, if spice is what we need. A regiment 
is thrown forward into line at the double quick; a 
brigade follows in column of support. There 
comes a blast of canister, the answering swell of 
musketry ; this for a few minutes ; then a wild shout 
goes up into the rolling smoke ; the battery manages 
to limber up and is off at a gallop, or sinks into 
sudden silence with all around. We reach the 
spot, and find our gallant fellows resting on their 

The Week of Flying Fights 215 

line, with a goodly half-glad company of prisoners 
in hand, and a patient group of the wounded of 
both parties for the ambulances which come 
galloping to the front, and alas, not without some 
brave men, our brothers, born near or far, to be 
buried here by the lonely wayside, lost but un- 
f orgotten ! 

We will look at these things with a more military 
eye, and something more of detail. When Meade 
had been sent off to Amelia Court House on the 
morning of the 6th, Sheridan sent his cavalry in 
the opposite direction, — the way Meade had in- 
tended to go with his army, — towards Farmville, 
where we had learned from intercepted dispatches 
Lee expected to find rations for his famishing 
troops. The cavalry soon got on the flank of Lee's 
trains; however, they were well guarded, and our 
forces were unable to inflict more injury than to 
hold the enemy in check until the Second and Sixth 
Corps, faced about and sent back by Meade, 
should come up, to take their accustomed and 
decisive share in the work. Barlow's Division of 
the Second had been turned off to the right of the 
road taken by his corps, towards that on which the 
Fifth Corps was moving, and where the enemy was 
expected to be encountered. But the enemy's 
columns on this road had already passed in the 
night, so that Barlow and the Fifth Corps had their 
hard and eager march with no material effect upon 
the enemy but that of capturing prisoners and 
destroying overtaken material of war. The other 
two divisions of the Second Corps took the road for 

2i6 The Passing of the Armies 

Deatonsville towards Sailor's Creek and the Appo- 
mattox, and soon found themselves in a running 
fight with Gordon's Corps, which held the costly 
honor of forming the rear-guard of Lee's main 
army. Our troops had a very difficult country to 
overcome, — broken, tangled, and full of swamps. 
They had to cross streams by wading armpit 
deep, and then push on to strike the flank or rear 
of the sullen ranks. Meanwhile a portion of our 
men were building bridges after Humphreys's rapid 
fashion, for the passage of our artillery and am- 
bulances. Thus we succeeded in keeping the 
artillery up to the skirmish lines, and in carrying 
the strong positions which the well-handled enemy 
had managed to entrench in their own rear-guard 
style and efficiency. In this way Humphreys 
pushed them for more than sixteen miles, the 
road much of the way strewn with wagons, camp 
equipage, battery-forges, and limbers — a stream of 
wreckage. At Perkinson's Mills, near the mouth 
of Sailor's Creek, Gordon made a definite stand, 
with a well-placed line of battle. But Humphreys* 
splendid handling of his plucky men inspired them 
to their best, and a sharp fight left the Second 
Corps masters of the field, and of large numbers of 
the enemy. This cost the corps 311 men killed and 
wounded. The loss of the enemy was still greater. 
The captures of the corps were thirteen battle-flags, 
four cannon, and seventeen hundred prisoners. 
After this defeat, Gordon pushed his retreat to 
High Bridge, a crossing of the Appomattox five 
miles below Farmville. 

The Week of Flying Fights 217 

Meantime Ewell and Anderson had been brought 
to a stand by our cavalry higher up Sailor's Creek, 
three miles on Humphreys's left. It was our Sixth 
Corps that now came upon them; the sharp issue 
soon joined. This corps fought with all its old 
hardihood, and our cavalry surpassed itself, riding 
over the enemy's works, saber to bayonet. This 
splendid courage and soldiership won commen- 
surate results. General Ewell was compelled to 
surrender, and nearly all of his command, over 
six thousand men, fell into our hands. Among 
these were many distinguished generals, both of his 
corps, and of Pickett's Division. 

These were most brilliant victories for the 
Second and Sixth Corps, and we of the Fifth were 
proud of them, for they were our own. We 
expected this of Sheridan and the cavalry, but 
were glad the old Army of the Potomac infantry 
came in for an undeniable share of the solid work as 
well as of the glory. 

There was some imaccountably poor generalship 
that day in the Confederate army. Longstreet 
held his troops all day at Rice's Station waiting 
for Anderson and Ewell and Gordon to come up, 
who had been held back to cover the trains. But 
for all that, Lee lost his trains, and by reason of this 
effort to save his trains he lost also a large part of 
his army and his main chance of escape. General 
Humphreys in his admirable review of this day's 
business, noting the fact that "Ewell's whole force 
was lost, together with nearly half of Anderson's 
and a large part of Gordon's, all in a useless effort 

2i8 The Passing of the Armies 

to save the trains, " goes on to say in effect that if 
Lee had abandoned all surplus artillery and camp 
equipage and retained only his ammunition and 
hospital wagons, and established temporary depots 
of supplies at important railroad stations, he 
might have been able to move rapidly enough to 
make a successful junction with Johnson at Dan- 
ville, or at least, to reach the moimtains of Lynch- 

What would this have availed to the main issue? 
Already the shadow of doom drew over the drifting 
Confederacy. The hour of deliverance and dis- 
persion was almost welcomed by its armies. And 
it was reserved for Lee to be confronted by a man as 
magnanimous as himself, and guided by a better 
star. He had to go down, honored and beloved 
indeed for the man he was, but the more lamented 
for the unhappy choice he made when he cast in his 
lot with those who forsook the old flag for a new 
one, which did not recognize the fact that old 
things had become new, — that even constitutions 
move with the march of man, with wider interpreta- 
tions and to their appointed goals, and that the 
old flag borne forward by farther-seeing men held 
its potency not only in the history of the past but 
for the story of the future. 

General Ord with the Army of the James by 
hard marches after splendid fighting in the old 
lines had reached Burkes ville on the evening of the 
5th, and on the morning of the 6th was directed to 
destroy the High Bridge and all other bridges 
which might be used by Lee in the direction of 

The Week of Flying Fights 219 

Danville or Lynchburg. This Ord proceeded to 
do with promptitude and vigor. But not aware of 
the proximity of the head of Lee's column, he sent 
out only a small party for this purpose, which 
after heroic and desperate fighting with Rosser's 
and Munford's cavalry, and the loss of the gallant 
General Reed and Colonel Washburn and many of 
their command, were forced to surrender what 

As for the Fifth Corps, we had made a day of it, 
marching thirty-two miles, burning and destroying, 
and bivouacked after dark in the vicinity of Sailor's 
Creek on the Appomattox. We had encountered 
only cavalry rear-guards and scouts, and had 
captured much material of war and over three 
hundred prisoners. We had many delays, bridge- 
building and burning; but our step was quickened 
by the roar of the Second and Sixth Corps battling 
on our left, and by sight of the dense black smoke 
that rose from the piles where our cavalry were 
burning the wagon-trains they captured on the 
roads to Farmville. Marvelous stories borne 
through the air, of our cavalry darting everywhere 
across the pathway of the fugitives, made good 
cheer around the camp-fires when we cooked frugal 
portions of precious coffee with cautious admixtures 
of turbid and possibly more deeply stained waters 
that came down to us from the ensanguined banks 
of Sailor's Creek. 

As soon as it was dark on the night of the 6th, 
Longstreet pushed forward to Farmville, where his 
men at last got a supply of rations. For two or 

220 The Passine of the Armies 


three days past they had been Hving on parched 
corn, — if they could stop to make a fire to parch it. 
Longstreet did not tarry here ; but on the morning 
of the 7th he crossed the river, burning the bridges 
behind him and moving out on the road to Lynch- 
burg. Gordon, with Johnson's and Mahone's Di- 
visions following, crossed to the north side of the 
Appomattox at High Bridge, five miles below 
Farmville. Our Second Corps closely followed, 
reaching the river just as the fugitives had blown up 
the bridge-heads forming its southern defense, and 
had set fire to the wagon bridge near by. Barlow 
hurrying forward saved it, and thus secured the 
passage of the Second Corps. Thereupon in the 
belief that Longstreet was moving toward Danville, 
he was sent up the river towards Farmville, and 
had a sharp engagement with some of Gordon's 
rear-guard on that road — while Humphreys with 
the rest of his corps, pushing closely out on the 
Lynchburg road, came suddenly on the enemy, 
who had turned to give battle, and who opened 
on him with sixteen pieces of artillery. He at 
once informs General Meade that he has the 
whole of Lee's remaining army in front of him, and 
asks that our Sixth Corps shall attack from the 
Farmville side while he takes the enemy in his 

In the meantime the Fifth Corps had moved 
from Sailor's Creek at daylight, and at 9.50 had 
arrived at High Bridge. A singular movement is 
now put into effect, the purpose of which to ordi- 
nary minds seems inscrutable. From the extreme 

The Week of Flying Fights 221 

right where Grant had so carefully placed us in 
order that the Sixth Corps might be next to Sheri- 
dan, the Fifth Corps is now marched past the rear 
of the Second and Sixth, — needing help as Hum- 
phreys did, — and ordered to the "extreme left" 
again, — which begins to seem our natural place 
after the manner of the "opposition " in the French 
Assembly. The queer thing about this is, that it 
puts us again into immediate contiguity with 
Sheridan and his cavalry, where General Grant 
had led us to fear we were not "harmonious," as 
the good Sixth Corps was. But we were not such 
bad fellows after all. Having the last three days 
proved our prowess in marching, we were assigned 
the honor of making a cavalry-sweep around the 
left flank and front of Lee's rushing army while our 
Second and Sixth Corps did all they could to drive 
them beyond us. So by 7.30 that night we biv- 
ouacked at Prince Edward's Court House, as far 
south of the rest of our army as we had been north 
of it the day before. 

Meantime Grant, now at Farmville, sends word 
to Himiphreys confronting Longstreet and Gordon 
on the opposite side of the river, between High 
Bridge and Farmville, that the Sixth and Twenty- 
fourth Corps are at hand, and that "the enemy 
cannot cross the river," — for what purpose it is 
difficult to divine, as he had already crossed to the 
north side and destroyed the bridges behind him, 
and could not be suspected of cherishing a desire 
to get back to the other side again at this juncture 
of affairs. Crook's cavalry managed to wade the 

222 The Passing of the Armies 

river and make a bold attack, but was repulsed 
with loss, the gallant General Irvin Gregg being 
rash enough to get into the enemy's lines, where he 
was held as prisoner. 

But it was the Sixth and Twenty-fourth Corps 
that "could not cross," and so Humphreys stood 
up there before Lee's army in a very perilous 
position. It was like the situation of our First 
Division sent across the Potomac at Shepardstown 
Ford after the battle of Antietam, — Lee's army in 
front of them, and a river behind them, perfectly 
surrounded by the enemy. Had Lee but under- 
stood Humphreys's situation, he might have de- 
stroyed the Second Corps, if he struck quickly, 
before the Fifth could have got over the river at 
High Bridge, and the Sixth and Twenty-fourth 
could have come around from Farmville by that 
long route. 

Meade, indeed, had promptly ordered the Sixth 
and also the Twenty-fourth Corps — the latter 
being now by its proximity subject to his orders — 
to cross and attack as Humphreys had requested, 
on the enemy's right flank. Nobody at either 
headquarters seems to have been aware that the 
bridges at Farmville had been destroyed. So 
Humphreys, hearing the firing from Crook's attack, 
and believing it was that of these two infantry 
corps, made a bold stand and a bluff fight (almost 
in the slang sense of that term) all along the salient 
points of the line, which had the important effect 
of causing Lee to lose a day, which he could but 
ill afford. For in the meantime the cavalry and 

The Week of Flying Fights 223 

the Fifth Corps with Ord's advance were driving 
with all their might to get across Lee's track. 

Could our army that morning in easy reach of 
High Bridge have been rapidly concentrated 
according to Htimphreys's earnest suggestion, and 
Meade's intention, and a little more "dash" and 
skillful engineering been put into exercise in the 
crossing at Farmville, there can be no question but 
that the Army of the Potomac would have "ended 
matters there, before they went back." 

But perhaps Grant thought there had been 
bloodshed enough, for that evening he writes a 
note to Lee making this thought the basis for 
asking the surrender of Lee's army. At half-past 
eight, this letter is sent by General Humphreys 
through his picket line. An hour's truce was given 
at this time to enable the enemy to gather up their 
wounded lying between the lines, which were only a 
few hundred yards apart. Lee's answer comes 
back within an hour, not offering to surrender but 
asking the terms that would be given in such case. 
In the course of the night, as might have been 
anticipated, Lee retires, making all possible dis- 
patch for Lynchburg, the Second Corps by daylight 
in close pursuit, followed by the Sixth. We, of 
course, knew nothing of this at the time; but only 
of what was going on in the road to Appomattox. 

For our part, on the morning of the 8th the 
Fifth Corps moved out at six o'clock, pressing with 
all our powers to outflank Lee's march. This 
morning I received a wholesome lesson of the 
results of inattention. In crossing Buffalo River, 

224 The Passing of the Armies 

my horse had a pardonable desire to take a drink. 
I let him advance half his length into the water, 
knee-deep or more, — ^which I thought enough; 
but with that unaccountable instinct of a drinking 
horse (or other fellow) to get further in, to "take 
another," my horse kept creeping forward, and I 
was stupid enough to let him — imtil suddenly 
stepping over a steep bank of the channel his 
whole body was forced to follow, as also his master, 
— or who should have been. Decidedly all was 
not over, — mostly the reverse; two emergent 
heads absurdly trying to look dignified marking 
the vital center. We made for the nearest bank; 
but could not effect a landing on account of the 
extreme tendency of the earth and water there to 
resume prehistoric conditions. The horse, not 
being a saurian, could neither walk nor swim in 
that mire. I had to act the part of a "lighter" and 
the horse and I assumed more than original rela- 
tions, — I being now the leader and something like 
the bearer. I got out first, — having only two feet 
to hold me fast. Then the dispensation of grace 
took the place of natural law, and two or three of 
my self-renouncing, now nearly sanctified, men 
went to the rescue of the crestfallen but still 
admired Charlemagne. What they had to do for 
us both afterwards, official dignity prevents ex- 

This driving pursuit, this relentless "forward," 
was altogether new experience for our much- 
enduring, much-abused old Army of the Potomac, 
— so taunted with not moving, — urged "on to 

The Week of Flying Fights 225 

Richmond" with the spur, but held to cover 
Washington with the curb, hitherto forced by 
something in the rear to stand still after our victo- 
ries, and by something we did not understand to 
draw back from some of our best-fought fields. 
Yet it had been so managed that at the worst the 
enemy seldom got sight of our backs. For our 
part, we had come off in good order from Bull Run 
and Fredericksburg in '62, and equally well from 
Chancellorsville in '63, and from all the long series 
of terrible drawn battles from the Rapidan to the 
James in '64. And we had many times seen the 
rebel army retiring in good order from great dis- 
aster; for Lee showed his best generalship in the 
defensive, his best manhood and humanity in 
orderly retreat. But we had never seen anything 
like this. Now we realized the effects of Grant's 
permission to "push things," — some of these 
things being ourselves. But the manifest results 
on others helped our spirits to sustain the wear and 
tear of body. The constantly diminishing ratio 
of the strength of Lee's army compared with ours 
made it clear that we should soon overcome that 
resistance and relieve Virginia of the burden of 
being the head of the Confederacy, and from that 
must follow the downfall of the Confederacy 

In this race, the 8th of April found the Fifth 
Corps at Prospect Station on the Southside Rail- 
road, nearly abreast of Lee's hurrying column, ten 
miles north of us at New Store, across the Appo- 
mattox, — Meade with his two corps close upon his 

226 The Passine of the Armies 


rear. We had been now a week in hot pursuit, 
fighting and marching by sharp tiirns, on a long 
road. At noon of this day we halted to give oppor- 
tunity for General Ord of the Army of the James 
to have the advance of us upon the road. He had 
come across from his successful assault on the 
center of the enemy's entrenchments before Peters- 
burg to join our force and had with him the Twenty- 
fourth Corps under General Gibbon and Birney's 
Division of the Twenty-fifth Colored troops, — 
whom we had not seen in the field before. The 
Fifth Corps was under Sheridan's immediate orders 
but General Ord being the senior officer present 
was by army regulations commander of our whole 
flanking column. He was very courteous to us all 
and we greeted him heartily. The preference of his 
corps to ours on the road was but natural consider- 
ing his rank, and I am sure no one thought of 
taking offense at it. But we could not resist the 
thought that it was for some reasons other than 
military that General Ord's command instead of 
being directed upon Lee's rear by the shortest 
course should be sent around to the extreme left to 
co-operate with Sheridan, while the Army of the 
Potomac was dismembered and divided right and 
left, — thus as we thought entailing much needless 
hard marching when time and htiman strength 
were prime elements of our problem; with the 
reflection also that the breaking up of familiar 
companionship was not good economy for a fight- 
ing force. However, our duty was to obey orders 
and keep our thoughts to ourselves. 

The Week of Flying Fights 227 

These men of the Army of the James had been 
doing splendid work, — especially in getting up to us. 
But the hard march to overtake us had pretty 
nearly used them up. A marching column under 
such circumstances cannot help stretching. This 
was the case before us now. When we pulled out 
to follow their column we found it dragging and 
lagging before us, the rear moving at a rate ever 
slower than the head. This made it very hard on 
our men. We had managed hitherto to keep in 
pretty close touch with the cavalry; but this 
constant checking up was a far worse trial. It 
fretted our men almost to mutiny. Men who w^ere 
really "the best fellows in the w^orld," as many a 
girl had told them on fairer evenings, and who 
wholly respected their officers and loved them, would 
greet the luckless officers believed to be leading the 
column with very insubordinate and wholly im- 
practicable advice as to the merits of this march, 
and the duty of treating our men with some sense. 
The head of our column seemed more like a mob 
than our patient well-disciplined soldiers. The 
headquarters wagons and pack mules which 
made the bulk of that real rabble ahead got un- 
ceremoniously helped along. Whoever blocked 
the way was served with a writ of ejectment in 
quite primitive fashion. After dark the belated 
artillery obstructing the way was treated without 
much reverence. Even the much suffering horses 
were held responsible, and prodded and belabored 
by men who wanted to put two legs in the place of 
four. The drivers defended their poor beasts by 

228 The Passine of the Armies 


directing their whips against the assailants, whose 
"high primed parry" with their muskets and 
bayonets availed little against the lithe and cutting 
lash. As little did the replications and rejoinders 
settle the issue of justice in the all too "pending 
case. " We tried to drown the tumult, if we could 
not pacify the spirits of our exasperated men, by 
bringing the bands to the head of the column to 
administer the unction of the "Girl I left behind 
me." However, this seemed to make them Vv'ant 
to "get there" all the more. 

Commanding officers could not exercise "dis- 
cretion" about moving. We could not bring our 
men to a halt when there was this kind of obstacle 
before us, impassable as if it were a wall or a bog, 
and let them rest until the way could be cleared, 
as would have been reasonable. For some roving 
staff officer would happen along just then, and 
without inquiring into the case, would repor^ to 
headquarters that such an officer was not moving 
according to orders, but was absolutely halting 
on the road. Then back would come an unjust 
reprimand, or perhaps the stultification of an 
"arrest," — of which there was quite too much 
already. So officers had to seem like incapables, 
and the men, poor fellows, had to keep on their 
feet, creeping at a snail's pace, or standing like 
tripods, on two legs and a musket-butt; weighed 
down with burdens of "heavy-marching order," 
which the mere momentum of marching, the 
changing play of muscles, would have helped to 
bear; all knowing full well that they would have 

The Week of Flying Fights 229 

to make up for this weary work by running them- 
selves fever- wild for hours at the end. 

We of the Fifth Corps had a good right to be 
tired, too. We had had a brisk week's work of it 
since the White Oak Road and Five Forks — rush- 
ing and pushing night and day, fighting a little 
now and then for the sake of that variety which is 
the spice of life. Many of our big-hearted fellows 
lost patience whose only disobedience of orders 
was that they refused to die of fatigue and starva- 
tion, as Meade had promised Sheridan they were 
ready to do. 

At last our lingering predecessors turn off. We 
have the road and the mood to make the most of it. 
We did not know that Grant had sent orders for the 
Fifth Corps to march all night without halting; 
but it was not necessary for us to know it. After 
twenty-nine miles of this kind of marching, at the 
blackest hour of night, human nature called a halt. 
Dropping by the roadside, right and left, wet and 
dry, down went the men as in a swoon. Officers 
slid out of saddle, loosened the girth, slipped an 
arm through a loop of bridle-rein, and sank to 
sleep. Horses stood with drooping heads just 
above their masters' faces. All dreaming, — one 
knows not what, of past or coming, possible or 



THE darkest hours before the dawn of April 
9, 1865, shrouded the Fifth Corps sunk 
in feverish sleep by the roadside six miles 
away from Appomattox Station on the Southside 
Road. Scarcely is the first broken dream begun 
when a cavalryman comes splashing down the road 
and vigorously dismounts, pulling from his jacket- 
front a crumpled note. The sentinel standing 
watch by his commander, worn in body but alert 
in every sense, touches your shoulder. "Orders, 
sir, I think." You rise on elbow, strike a match, 
and with smarting, streaming eyes read the brief, 
thrilling note, sent back by Sheridan to us infantry 
commanders. Like this, as I remember: "I have 
cut across the enemy at Appomattox Station, and 
capttired three of his trains. If you can possibly 
push your infantry up here to-night, we will have 
great results in the morning." Ah, sleep no 
more. The startling bugle notes ring out "The 
General" — "To the march." Word is sent for 
the men to take a bite of such as they have for 

food: the promised rations will not be up till 


Appomattox 231 

noon, and by that time we shall be perhaps too 
far away for such greeting. A few try to eat, no 
matter what. Meanwhile, almost with one foot 
in the stirrup, you take from the hands of the black 
boy a tin plate of nondescript food and a dipper of 
miscalled coffee; — all equally black, like the night 
around. You eat and drink at a swallow; mount, 
and away to get to the head of the column before 
you sound the "Forward." They are there — the 
men : shivering to their senses as if risen out of the 
earth, but something in them not of it. Now 
sounds the "Forward," for the last time in our 
long-drawn strife. And they move — these men — • 
sleepless, supperless, breakfastless, sore-footed, 
stiff-jointed, sense-benumbed, but with flushed 
faces pressing for the front. 

By sunrise we have reached Appomattox Station, 
where Sheridan has left the captured trains. A 
staff officer is here to ttirn us square to the right, to 
the Appomattox River, cutting across Lee's re- 
treat. Already we hear the sharp ring of the horse- 
artillery, answered ever and anon by heavier field 
guns; and drawing nearer, the crack of cavalry 
carbines; and unmistakably, too, the graver roll 
of musketry of opposing infantry. There is no 
mistake. Sheridan is square across the enemy's 
front, and with that glorious cavalry alone is 
holding at bay all that is left of the proudest army 
of the Confederacy. It has come at last, — the 
supreme hour. No thought of human wants or 
weakness now: all for the front; all for the flag, 
for the final stroke to make its meaning real — these 

232 The Passing of the Armies 

men of the Potomac and the James, side by side, 
at the double in time and column, now one and now 
the other in the road or the fields beside. One 
striking feature I can never forget, — Birney's 
black men abreast with us, pressing forward to 
save the white man's country. 

We did not know exactly what was going on. 
We did know that our cavalry had been doing 
splendid work all night, and in fact now was holding 
at bay Lee's whole remaining army. I was proud 
to learn that Smith's Brigade — our First Maine 
Cavalry in the van — had waged the most critical 
part of the glorious fight. 

Ord's troops were in lead, pushing for the roar 
of the guns to bring relief to our cavalry before 
Lee's anxious infantry should break through. 
The storm-center was now on the Lynchburg Pike, 
a mile or so beyond Appomattox Court House. 
The Fifth Corps followed, Ayres' Division ahead; 
then our old Third Brigade of the First Division, — 
once mine, since Bartlett's; next, my command, 
my own brigade and Gregory's; at the rear of the 
column Crawford's fine division, but somehow 
unaccountably slow in its movements and march. 

I was therefore in about the middle of our Fifth 
Corps column. The boom of the battle thickened 
ahead of us. We were intent for the front. Sud- 
denly I am accosted by a cavalry staff officer dash- 
ing out of a rough wood road leading off to oiu* 
right. "General, you command this column?" — 
"Two brigades of it, sir; about half the First 
Division, Fifth Corps." — "Sir, General Sheridan 

Appomattox 233 

wishes you to break off from this column and come 
to his support. The rebel infantry is pressing him 
hard. Our men are falling back. Don't wait for 
orders through the regular channels, but act on this 
at once." 

Of course I obey, without question. Sending 
word forward to Griffin, in command of our Fifth 
Corps, that he may understand and instruct Craw- 
ford to follow the main column and not me, I turn 
off my brigade and Gregory's and guided by the 
staff officer, push out to see if we can do as well on 
a cavalry front as we had at their heels. My guide 
informed me of the situation. Ord's troops were 
holding Gordon's hard on the Lynchburg Pike; 
this latter command was now a formidable force, 
having taken in the heart of Stonewall Jackson's 
and A. P. Hill's corps, and what was left of Ander- 
son's. But the rear of this column pressing on had 
made a demonstration indicating that they were 
now about to try a final forlorn hope to cut through 
near the Court House while the head of their column 
was engaging Ord. General Sheridan, to thwart 
this attempt, had taken Devins's Cavalry Division 
back to meet them, at least until our infantry 
could be brought up. The barrier of cavalry alone 
could not withstand the desperate Confederate 
veterans essaying their last hope, and in fact was 
slowly receding. This explained the reason of our 

Sharp work now. Pushing through the woods at 
cavalry speed, we come out right upon Sheridan's 
battle flag gleaming amidst the smoke of his bat- 

234 The Passino^ of the Armies 

teries in the edge of the open field. Weird-looking 
flag it is: fork-tailed, red and white, the two 
bands that composed it each charged with a star of 
the contrasting color; two eyes sternly glaring 
through the cannon-cloud. Beneath it, that storm- 
center spirit, that form of condensed energies, 
mounted on the grim charger, Rienzi, that turned 
the battle of the Shenandoah, — both, rider and 
steed, of an unearthly shade of darkness, terrible 
to look upon, as if masking some unknown powers. 

Right before us, our cavalry, Devins' division, 
gallantly stemming the surges of the old Stone- 
wall brigade, desperate to beat its way through. 
I ride straight to Sheridan. A dark smile and 
impetuous gesture are my only orders. Forward 
into double lines of battle, past Sheridan, his guns, 
his cavalry, and on for the quivering crest ! For a 
moment it is a glorious sight: every arm of the 
service in full play, — cavalry, artillery, infantry; 
then a sudden shifting scene as the cavalry, dis- 
engaged by successive squadrons, rally under their 
bugle-calls with beautiful precision and prompti- 
tude, and sweep like a storm-cloud beyond our 
right to close in on the enemy's left and complete 
the fateful envelopment. 

Ord's troops are now square across the Lynch- 
burg Pike. Ayres and Bartlett have joined them 
on their right, and all are in for it sharp. In 
this new front we take up the battle. Gregory 
follows in on my left. It is a formidable front we 
make. The scene darkens. In a few minutes the 
tide is turned; the incoming wave is at flood; the 

Appomattox 235 

barrier recedes. In truth, the Stonewall men 
hardly show their well-proved mettle. They seem 
astonished to see before them these familiar flags 
of their old antagonists, not having thought it 
possible that we could match our cavalry and 
march around and across their pressing columns. 

Their last hope is gone, — to break through our 
cavalry before our infantry can get up. Neither to 
Danville nor to Lynchburg can they cut their way ; 
and close upon their rear, five miles away, are 
pressing the Second and Sixth Corps of the Army 
of the Potomac. It is the end! They are now 
giving way, but keep good front, by force of old 
habit. Halfway up the slope they make a stand, 
with what perhaps they think a good omen, — 
behind a stone wall. I try a little artillery on 
them, which directs their thoughts towards the 
crest behind them, and stiffen my lines for a rush, 
anxious for that crest myself. My intensity may 
have seemed like excitement. For Griffin comes 
up, quizzing me in his queer way of hitting off our 
weak points when we get a little too serious ; accus- 
ing me of mistaking a blooming peach tree for a 
rebel flag, where I was dropping a few shells into a 
rallying crowd. I apologize — I was a little near- 
sighted, and hadn't been experienced in long-range 
fighting. But as for peaches, I was going to get 
some if the pits didn't sit too hard on our stomachs. 

In a few minutes Griffin rides up again, in quite 
a different mood. "General," he says, "I want you 
to go back and bring up Crawford's Division. He 
is acting in the same old fashion that got Warren 

236 The Passing of the Armies 

into trouble at Five Forks. He should have been 
up here long ago. We need him desperately. 
He deserves to be relieved of his command." 
— "General, do you mean to relieve me of mine, 
and make me a staff officer? It can't come to 
that." — "I mean to put you in command of that 
division," he answers; "I will publish an order to 
that effect. " — "General, pardon me, but you must 
not do that. It would make trouble for everybody, 
and I do not desire the position. It would make 
great disturbance among Crawford's friends, and 
if you will pardon the suggestion they may have 
influence enough at Washington to block your 
confirmation as Major-General. Besides, I think 
General Baxter of the Third Division is my senior ; 
that must settle it." 

This is a singular episode for such a moment. 
But it may be cited as showing the variety of com- 
motions that occupied our minds. 

But now comes up Ord with a positive order: 
"Don't expose your lines on that crest. The 
enemy have massed their guns to give it a raking 
fire the moment you set foot there. " I thought I 
saw a qualifying look as he turned away. But left 
alone, youth struggled with prudence. My troops 
were in a bad position down here. I did not like 
to be "the under dog. " It was much better to be 
on top and at least know what there was beyond. 
So I thought of Grant and his permission to "push 
things" when we got them going; and of Sheridan 
and his last words as he rode away with his cavalry, 
smiting his hands together — "Now smash 'em, 

Appomattox 237 

I tell you ; smash 'em ! " So we took this for orders, 
and on the crest we stood. One booming cannon- 
shot passed close along our front, and in the next 
moment all was still. 

We had done it, — had "exposed ourselves to the 
view of the enemy. " But it was an exposure that 
worked two ways. For there burst upon our 
vision a mighty scene, fit cadence of the story of 
tumultuous years. Encompassed by the cordon 
of steel that crowned the heights about the Court 
House, on the slopes of the valley formed by the 
sources of the Appomattox, lay the remnants of 
that far-famed counterpart and companion of our 
own in momentous history, — the Army of Northern 
Virginia — Lee's army! 

In the meantime Crawford's troops have begun 
to arrive, and form in between Gregory and 
Bartlett on our left. 

It was hilly, broken ground, in effect a vast 
amphitheater, stretching a mile perhaps from crest 
to crest. On the several confronting slopes before 
us dusky masses of infantry suddenly resting in 
place; blocks of artillery, standing fast in column 
or mechanically swung into park ; clouds of cavalry 
small and great, slowly moving, in simple restless- 
ness; — all without apparent attempt at offense or 
defense, or even military order. 

In the hollow is the Appomattox, — which we had 
made the dead-line for our baffied foe, for its whole 
length, a hundred miles; here but a rivulet that 
might almost be stepped over dry-shod, and at the 
road crossing not thought worth while to bridge. 

23S The Passing of the Armies 

Around its edges, now trodden to mire, swarms an 
indescribable crowd: worn-out soldier struggling 
to the front; demoralized citizen and denizen, 
white, black, and all shades between, — following 
Lee's army, or flying before these suddenly con- 
fronted terrible Yankees pictured to them as 
demon-shaped and bent; animals, too, of all forms 
and grades; vehicles of every description and non- 
description, — public and domestic, four-wheeled, 
or two, or one, — sheading and moving in every 
direction, a swarming mass of chaotic confusion. 

All this within sight of every eye on our bristling 
crest. Had one the heart to strike at beings so 
helpless, the Appomattox would quickly become 
a surpassing Red Sea horror. But the very spec- 
tacle brings every foot to an instinctive halt. We 
seem the possession of a dream. We are lost in a 
vision of human tragedy. But our light-twelve Na- 
poleon guns come rattling up behind us to go into 
battery; we catch the glitter of the cavalry blades 
and brasses beneath the oak groves away to our 
right, and the ominous closing in on the fated foe. 

So with a fervor of devout joy, — as when, per- 
haps, the old crusaders first caught sight of the 
holy city of their quest, — with an up-going of the 
heart that was half paean, half prayer, we dash 
forward to the consummation. A solitary field - 
piece in the edge of the town gives an angry but 
expiring defiance. We press down a little slope, 
through a swamp, over a bright swift stream. 
Our advance is already in the town, — only the 
narrow street between the opposing lines, and 

Appomattox 239 

hardly that. There is wild work, that looks like 
fighting; but not much killing, nor even hurting. 
The disheartened enemy take it easy; our men 
take them easier. It is a wild, mild fusing, — earn- 
est, but not deadly earnest. 

A young orderly of mine, unable to contain 
himself, begs permission to go forward, and dashes 
in, sword-flourishing as if he were a terrible fellow, 
— and soon comes back, hugging four sabers to his 
breast, speechless at his achievement. 

We were advancing, tactically fighting, and I 
was somewhat uncertain as to how much more of 
the strenuous should be required or expected. But 
I could not give over to this weak mood. 

My right was "in the air," advanced, unsup- 
ported, towards the enemy's general line, exposed 
to flank attack by troops I could see in the distance 
across the stream. I held myself on that extreme 
flank, where I could see the cavalry which we had 
relieved, now forming in column of squadrons 
ready for a dash to the front, and I was anxiously 
hoping it would save us from the flank attack. 
Watching intently, my eye was caught by the 
figure of a horseman riding out between those lines, 
soon joined by another, and taking a direction 
across the cavalry front towards our position. 
They were nearly a mile away, and I curiously 
watched them till lost from sight in the nearer 
broken ground and copses between. 

Suddenly rose to sight another form, close in our 
own front, — a soldierly young figure, a Confeder- 
ate staff officer undoubtedly. Now I see the white 

240 The Passing of the Armies 

flag earnestly borne, and its possible purport 
sweeps before my inner vision like a wraith of 
morning mist. He comes steadily on, the mys- 
terious form in gray, my mood so whimsically 
sensitive that I could even smile at the material of 
the flag, — wondering where in either army was 
found a towel, and one so white. But it bore a 
mighty message, — that simple emblem of homely 
service, wafted hitherward above the dark and 
crimsoned streams that never can wash themselves 

The messenger draws near, dismounts; with 
graceful salutation and hardly suppressed emotion 
delivers his message: "Sir, I am from General 
Gordon. General Lee desires a cessation of hostili- 
ties until he can hear from General Grant as to the 
proposed surrender." 

What word is this! so long so dearly fought for, 
so feverishly dreamed, but ever snatched away, 
held hidden and aloof; now smiting the senses with 
a dizzy flash! "Surrender"? We had no nmior 
of this from the messages that had been passing 
between Grant and Lee, for now these two days, 
behind us. "Surrender"? It takes a moment to 
gather one's speech. "Sir," I answer, "that 
matter exceeds my authority. I will send to my 
superior. General Lee is right. He can do no 
more." All this with a forced calmness, covering 
a tumult of heart and brain. I bid him wait a 
while, and the message goes up to my corps com- 
mander, General Griflin, leaving me mazed at the 
boding change. 

Appomattox 241 

Now from the right come foaming up in cavalry- 
fashion the two forms I had watched from away 
beyond. A white flag again, held strong aloft, 
making straight for the little group beneath our 
battle-flag, high borne also, — the red Maltese cross 
on a field of white, that had thrilled hearts long ago. 
I see now that it is one of our cavalry staff in 
lead, — indeed I recognize him. Colonel Whitaker 
of Custer's staff; and, hardly keeping pace with 
him, a Confederate staff officer. Without dis- 
mounting, without salutation, the cavalryman 
shouts : ' ' This is unconditional surrender ! This is 
the end!" Then he hastily introduces his com- 
panion, and adds: '*I am just from Gordon and 
Longstreet. Gordon says 'For God's sake, stop 
this infantry, or hell will be to pay!' I'll go to 
Sheridan," he adds, and dashes away with the 
white flag, leaving Longstreet 's aide with me.^ 

I was doubtful of my duty. The flag of truce 
was in, but I had no right to act upon it without 
orders. There was still some firing from various 
quarters, lulling a little where the white flag passed 
near. But I did not press things quite so hard. 
Just then a last cannon-shot from the edge of the 

' The various accounts that have been since given of the reception of 
the flag of truce on this occasion might lead to the impression upon 
readers of history that we were all under great agitation of mind and 
that our memories were somewhat confused or possibly our habit of 
truth telling. But those who were acquainted with the facts will not be 
disturbed in their inferences or judgments. In accordance with Lee's 
instructions several flags were sent out at important points along his 
own line, and several came in on our Appomattox front. The flag- 
bearers I refer to were Capt. P. M. Jones, now U. S. District Judge in 
Alabama, and Capt. Brown of Georgia. 


242 The Passing of the Armies 

town plunges through the breast of a gallant and 
dear young officer in my front line, — Lieutenant 
Clark, of the 185th New York, — the last man killed 
in the Army of the Potomac, if not the last in the 
Appomattox lines.' Not a strange thing for war, — 
this swift stroke of the mortal; but coming after 
the truce was in, it seemed a cruel fate for one so 
deserving to share his country's joy, and a sad 
peace-offering for us all. 

Shortly comes the order, in due form, to cease 
firing and to halt. There was not much firing to 
cease from; but "halt," then and there? It is 
beyond human power to stop the men, whose one 
word and thought and action through crimsoned 
years had been but forward. They had seen the 
flag of truce, and could divine its outcome. But 
the habit was too strong; they cared not for points 
of direction, it was forward still, — ^forward to the 
end; forward to the new beginning; forward to 
the Nation's second birth! 

But it struck them also in a quite human way. 
The more the captains cry, "Halt! the rebels 
want to surrender," the more the men want to be 
there and see it. Still to the front, where the real 
fun is! And the forward movement takes an up- 
ward turn.. For when we do succeed in stopping 

' It has been claimed that the last man killed in the Appomattox 
lines belonged to the Army of the James. That may possibly be so, 
as the reception of flags began on our right, and probably did not reach 
the extreme left where the Army of the James was until some time after. 
So there may have been some firing and casualties after the truce had 
been received on our right. The honor of this last death is not a proper 
subject of quarrel. 

Appomattox 243 

their advance we cannot keep their arms and legs 
from flying. To the top of fences, and haystacks, 
and chimneys they clamber, to toss their old caps 
higher in the air, and leave the earth as far below 
them as they can. 

Dear old General Gregory gallops up to in- 
quire the meaning of this strange departure from 
accustomed discipline. "Only that Lee wants 
time to surrender, " I answer with stage solemnity. 
"Glory to God!" roars the grave and brave old 
General, dashing upon me with an impetuosity that 
nearly unhorsed us both, to grasp and wring my 
hand, which had not yet had time to lower the 
sword. "Yes, and on earth peace, good will to- 
wards men, " I answered, bringing the thanksgiving 
from heavenward, manward. 

"Your legs have done it, my men," shouts the 
gallant, gray-haired Ord, galloping up cap in hand, 
generously forgiving our disobedience of orders, 
and rash "exposure" on the dubious crest. True 
enough, their legs had done it, — had "matched the 
cavalry" as Grant admitted, had cut around Lee's 
best doings, and commanded the grand halt. But 
other things too had "done it"; the blood was still 
fresh upon the Quaker Road, the White Oak Ridge, 
Five Forks, Farmville, High Bridge, and Sailor's 
Creek; and we take somewhat gravely this com- 
pliment of our new commander, of the Army of the 
James. At last, after "pardoning something to 
the spirit of liberty," we get things "quiet along 
the lines." 

A truce is agreed upon until one o'clock — it is 

244 The Passing of the Armies 

now ten. A conference is to be held, or rather 
colloquy, for no one here is authorized to say any- 
thing about the terms of surrender. Six or eight 
officers from each side meet between the lines, 
near the Court House, waiting Lee's answer to 
Grant's summons to surrender. There is lively 
chat here on this unaccustomed opportunity for 
exchange of notes and queries. 

The first greetings are not all so dramatic as 
might be thought, for so grave an occasion. "Well 
Billy, old boy, how goes it?" asks one loyal West 
Pointer of a classmate he had been fighting for 
four years. "Bad, bad, Charlie, bad I tell you; 
but have you got any whisky? " was the response, — 
not poetic, not idealistic, but historic; founded on 
fact as to the strength of the demand, but without 
evidence of the questionable maxim that the de- 
mand creates the supply. More of the economic 
truth was manifest that scarcity enhances value. 

Everybody seems acquiescent and for the 
moment cheerful, — except Sheridan. He does not 
like the cessation of hostilities, and does not con- 
ceal his opinion. His natural disposition was not 
sweetened by the circumstance that he was fired 
on by some of the Confederates as he was coming 
up to the meeting under the truce. He is for 
unconditional surrender, and thinks we should 
have banged right on and settled all questions 
without asking them. He strongly intimates that 
some of the free-thinking rebel cavalry might take 
advantage of the truce to get away from us. But 
the Confederate officers, one and all, Gordon, 

Appomattox 245 

Wilcox, Heth, "Rooney" Lee, and all the rest, 
assure him of their good faith, and that the game 
is up for them. 

But suddenly a sharp firing cuts the air about our 
ears — musketry and artillery — out beyond us on 
the Lynchburg pike, where it seems Sheridan had 
sent Gregg's command to stop any free-riding 
pranks that might be played. Gordon springs up 
from his pile of rails with an air of astonishment 
and vexation, declaring that for his part he had 
sent out in good faith orders to hold things as they 
are. And he glances more than inquiringly at 
Sheridan. "Oh, never mind!" says Sheridan, "I 
know about it. Let 'em fight!" with two simple 
words added, which, literally taken, are supposed 
to express a condemnatory judgment, but in Sheri- 
dan's rhetoric convey his appreciation of highly 
satisfactory qualities of his men, — especially just 

One o'clock comes ; no answer from Lee. Noth- 
ing for us but to shake hands and take arms to 
resume hostilities. As I turned to go, General 
Griffin said to me in a low voice, "Prepare to make, 
or receive, an attack in ten minutes!" It was a 
sudden change of tone in our relations, and brought 
a queer sensation. Where my troops had halted, 
the opposing lines were in close proximity. The 
men had stacked arms and were resting in place. 
It did not seem like war we were to recommence, 
but wilful murder. But the order was only to 
"prepare," and that we did. Our troops were in 
good position, my advanced line across the road, 

246 The Passini^' of the Armies 

and we stood fast intensely waiting. I had mounted, 
and sat looking at the scene before me, thinking of 
all that was impending and depending, when I felt 
coming in upon me a strange sense of some presence 
invisible but powerful — like those unearthly visit- 
ants told of in ancient story, charged with supernal 
message. Disquieted, I turned about, and there 
behind me, riding in between my two lines, ap- 
peared a commanding form, superbly mounted, 
richly accoutred, of imposing bearing, noble coun- 
tenance, with expression of deep sadness over- 
mastered by deeper strength. It is no other than 
Robert E. Lee! And seen by me for the first time 
within my own lines. I sat immovable, with a 
certain awe and admiration. He was coming, with 
a single staff officer,' for the great appointed meet- 
ing which was to determine momentous issues. 

Not long after, by another inleading road, ap- 
peared another form, plain, unassuming, simple, 
and familiar to our eyes, but to the thought as 
much inspiring awe as Lee in his splendor and his 
sadness. It is Grant! He, too, comes with a 
single aide, a staff officer of Sheridan's who had 
come out to meet him.^ Slouched hat without 
cord; common soldier's blouse, unbuttoned, on 
which, however, the four stars; high boots, mud- 
splashed to the top; trousers tucked inside; no 
sword, but the sword-hand deep in the pocket; 
sitting his saddle with the ease of a born master, 
taking no notice of anything, all his faculties 
gathered into intense thought and mighty calm. 

' Colonel Marshall, chief of staflf. ^ Colonel Newhall. 

Appomattox 247 

He seemed greater than I had ever seen him, — a 
look as of another world about him. No wonder 
I forgot altogether to salute him. Anything like 
that would have been too little. 

He rode on to meet Lee at the Court House. 
What momentous issues had these two souls to 
declare! Neither of them, in truth, free, nor held 
in individual bounds alone; no longer testing each 
other's powers and resources, no longer weighing 
the chances of daring or desperate conflict. In- 
struments of God's hands, they were now to record 
His decree! 

But the final word is not long coming now. 
Staff officers are flying, crying "Lee surrenders!" 
Ah, there was some kind of strength left among 
those worn and famished men belting the hills 
around the springs of the Appomattox, who rent 
the air with shouting and uproar, as if earth and 
sea had joined the song! Our men did what they 
thought their share, and then went to sleep, as 
they had need to do ; but in the opposite camp they 
acted as if they had got hold of something too good 
to keep, and gave it to the stars. 

Besides, they had a supper that night, which 
was something of a novelty. For we had divided 
rations with our old antagonists now that they 
were by our side as suffering brothers. In truth, 
Longstreet had come over to our camp that evening 
with an unwonted moisture on his martial cheek 
and compressed words on his lips: "Gentlemen, 
I must speak plainly; we are starving over there. 
For God's sake! can you send us something.'^" 

248 The Passing of the Armies 

We were men ; and we acted like men, knowing we 
should suffer for it otirselves. We were too short- 
rationed also, and had been for days, and must be 
for days to come. But we forgot Andersonville 
and Belle Isle that night, and sent over to that 
starving camp share and share alike for all there; 
nor thinking the merits of the case diminished by 
the circumstance that part of these provisions was 
what Sheridan had captured from their trains the 
night before. 

Generals Gibbon, Griffin, and Merritt were 
appointed commissioners to arrange the details of 
the surrender, and orders were issued in both 
armies that all officers and men should remain with- 
in the limits of their encampment. 

Late that night I was summoned to headquarters, 
where General Griffin informed me that I was 
to command the parade on the occasion of the 
formal surrender of the arms and colors of Lee's 
army. He said the Confederates had begged hard 
to be allowed to stack their arms on the ground 
where they were, and let us go and pick them up 
after they had gone; but that Grant did not think 
this quite respectful enough to anybody, including 
the United States of America ; and while he would 
have all private property respected, and would 
permit officers to retain their side-arms, he insisted 
that the surrendering army as such should march 
out in due order, and lay down all tokens of Con- 
federate authority and organized hostility to the 
United States, in immediate presence of some 
representative portion of the Union Army. Griffin 

Appomattox 249 

added in a significant tone that Grant wished the 
ceremony to be as simple as possible, and that 
nothing should be done to humiliate the manhood 
of the Southern soldiers. 

I appreciated the honor of this appointment, 
although I did not take it much to myself. There 
were other things to think of. I only asked 
General Griffin to give me again my old Third 
Brigade, which I had commanded after Gettysburg, 
and with which I had been closely associated in 
the great battles of the first two years. Not for 
private reasons, however, was this request made, 
but because this was to be a crowning incident of 
history, and I thought these veterans deserved this 
recognition. I was therefore transferred from the 
First Brigade, of which I had been so proud, to 
the Third, representing the veterans of the Fifth 
Corps. The soul-drawing bugle-call "Lights Out ! " 
did not mean darkness and silence that momentous 
evening ; far into the night gleamed some irrepres- 
sible camp fire and echoed the irrepressible cheer in 
which men voiced their deepest thought, — how 
different for each, no other knows! 

At last we sleep — those who can. And so 
ended that 9th of April, 1865 — Palm Sunday, — in 
that obscure little Virginia village now blazoned 
for immortal fame. Graver destinies were deter- 
mined on that htimble field than on many of classic 
and poetic fame. And though the issue brought 
bitterness to some, yet the heart of humanity the 
world over thrilled at the tidings. To us, I know, 
who there fell asleep that night, amidst memories of 

250 The Passing of the Armies 

things that never can be told, it came like that 
Palm Sunday of old, when the rejoicing multitude 
met the meekly riding King, and cried: "Peace in 
Heaven; glory in the highest. " 

Morning dawned; and then, in spite of all 
attempts to restrain it, came the visiting and sight- 
seeing. Our camp was full of callers before we were 
up. They stood over our very heads now, — the 
men whose movements we used to study through 
field-glasses, or see close at hand framed in fire. 
We woke, and by force of habit started at the 
vision. But our resolute and much-enduring old 
antagonists were quick to change their mood when 
touched by appealing sentiment; they used their 
first vacation to come over and see what we were 
really made of, and what we had left for trade. 
Food was what was most needed ; but was precisely 
what we also most lacked. Such as we parted with 
was not for sale, or barter; this went for " old 
times" — old comradeship across the lines. But 
tobacco, pipes, knives, money — or symbols of it, 
— shoes, — more precious still; and among the staff, 
even saddles, now and then, and other more trivial 
things that might serve as souvenirs, made an 
exchange about as brisk as the bullets had done a 
few days ago. The inundation of visitors grew 
so that it looked like a country fair, including the 
cattle-show. This exhibit broke up the order of the 
camp; and the authorities in charge had to inter- 
pose and forbid all visiting. All this day and part 
of the next our commissioners were busy arranging 
for the reception and transportation of surrendered 

Appomattox 251 

property and the preparation of parole lists for the 
surrendering men. It was agreed that officers 
should sign paroles for their commands. But it 
took work and time to get the muster rolls in 
shape, not for "red tape" reasons, but for clear 
and explicit personal and public record. On our 
part most of us had time to think, — looking back- 
ward, and also forward. 

Most of all, we missed our companions of the 
Second and Sixth Corps. They were only three 
miles away and were under orders to move back 
at once to Burkeville. It seemed strange to us 
that these two corps should not be allowed that 
little three-mile march more, to be participants of 
this consummation to which they perhaps more 
than any had contributed. Many a longer detour 
had they made for less cause and less good. 

But whatever of honor or privilege came to us of 
the Fifth Corps was accepted not as for any pre- 
eminent work or worth of ours, but in the name 
of the whole noble Army of the Potomac; with 
loving remembrance of every man, whether on 
horse or foot or cannon-caisson, whether with 
shoulder-strap of office or with knapsack, — of every 
man, whether his heart beat high with the joy of 
this hour, or was long since stilled in the shallow 
trenches that furrow the red earth from the An- 
tietam to the Appomattox ! 

It may help to a connected understanding of 
these closing scenes, if we glance at the movements 
of that close-pressing column for a day or two 
before. On theeyening^ of the 7th, General Grant '^ 

2^2 The Passing" of the Annies 


had written General Lee a letter from Farmville, 
and sent it through General Humphreys' lines, 
asking Lee to surrender his army. Lee answered 
at once declining to surrender, but asking the 
terms Grant would offer. The pursuit being 
resumed on the morning of the 8th, Grant wrote 
to Lee a second letter, delivered through Hum- 
phreys' skirmish line and Fitzhugh Lee's rear-guard, 
proposing to meet him for the purpose of arranging 
terms of surrender. To this Lee replied that he 
had not intended to propose actual surrender, but 
to negotiate for peace, and to ask General Grant 
what terms he would offer on that basis ; proposing 
a meeting at lo o'clock on the morning of the 9th 
between the picket lines, for discussion of this 
question. Grant answered declining the appoint- 
ment for this purpose, saying in effect that the 
only way to secure peace is for the South to lay 
down their arms. 

General Grant must have felt that the end was 
fast coming, even without negotiations; and he 
seems quite earnest to impress this upon General 
Lee. For, after all the solicitude about sparing 
further bloodshed, he in no wise permits his pur- 
suing columns to remit their activity. The natural 
result of this must be a battle, a destructive and de- 
cisive one. Indeed, in the present situation of our 
Second and Sixth Corps, this battle is imminent. 
Still, at this very juncture, — Lee being now in his 
immediate presence, so to speak, close upon Hum- 
phreys' skirmish line, — for reasons which he has 
not made fully apparent but which we of the White 

Appomattox 253 

Oak Road could without difficulty surmise, General 
Grant deems it proper to transfer his own personal 
presence, as he says, "to the head of the column, " 
or, as Badeau puts it, "to join Sheridan's column." 
This was now fighting Gordon's command and 
Lee's cavalry at Appomattox Court House. Ac- 
cordingly, General Grant, having sent this sugges- 
tive answer to General Lee, took a road leading 
south from a point a mile west of New Store, for a 
good twenty-mile ride over to Sheridan, leaving 
great responsibility on Humphreys and Wright. 
Lee was repeatedly sending word to Humphreys 
asking for a truce pending consideration of pro- 
posals for surrender. Humphreys answered that 
he had no authority to consent to this, but, on the 
contrary, must press him to the utmost; and at 
last, in answer to Lee's urgency, he even had to 
warn General Lee that he must retire from a posi- 
tion he was occupying somewhat too trustingly on 
the road not a hundred yards from the head of the 
Second Corps column. Lee's reason undoubtedly 
was that he was expecting the meeting with Grant 
which he had asked for between the skirmish lines 
at ten o'clock. Half an hour after the incident, 
and half a mile beyond this place, the Second Corps 
came up to Longstreet's entrenched lines three 
miles northeast of Appomattox Court House; 
and the Sixth Corps closely following, dispositions 
were made for instant attack. At this moment 
General Meade arrives on the ground, and the 
attack is suspended. For Lee in the meantime has 
sent a further letter through Himiphreys to Grant, 

254 The Passing of the Armies 

asking an interview on the basis of Grant's last 
letter, and Meade reading this, at once grants a 
truce of an hour on his own lines, awaiting the 
response from Grant. But Grant had already left 
that front. Had he been here, matters could have 
been quickly settled. A staff officer is sent to 
overtake General Grant, and at noon, half-way 
on his journey, the General sends back answer to 
Lee that he is pushing forward "to the front" for 
the purpose of meeting him, with the very queer 
advice that word may be sent to him on the road 
he is now on, at what point General Lee wishes the 
meeting to be — that is, by a messenger out -gal- 
loping Grant. There is not much choice for Lee 
now. Grant being on so long a road and at such 
distance from both of the two "columns," com- 
munication with him is for a time impracticable. 
In consequence of this necessary delay, Lee sent a 
flag of truce both to Meade in his rear and to 
Sheridan in his front, to ask for a suspension of 
hostilities until he could somewhere meet General 
Grant, and himself took the shortest road for 
Appomattox Coirrt House. 

To resume my point of time and place, I was 
most of this day and the next adjusting relations 
in my changing commands, and with a part of my 
men, in picking up abandoned guns and munitions 
of value along the track of the Confederate march. 
I also had some thoughts which, as this is a per- 
sonal narrative, it may be permitted to recall. 
For those who choose, the passage may be passed 
by. Some people have naturally asked me if I 

Appomattox 255 

knew why I was designated to command the 
parade at the formal surrender. The same query 
came to my mind during the reflections of this day. 
I did not know or prestime to ask those who per- 
haps would not have told me. Taking the assign- 
ment as I wotild any other, my feeling about it 
was more for the honor of the Fifth Corps and 
the Army of the Potomac than for myself. In 
lineal rank the junior general on the field, I never 
thought of claiming any special merit, nor tried 
to attract attention in any way, and believed 
myself to be socially unpopular among the "high 
boys." I had never indulged in loose talk, had 
minded my own business, did not curry favor with 
newspaper reporters, did not hang around superior 
headquarters, and in general had disciplined my- 
self in self-control and the practice of patience, 
which virtue was not prominent among my natural 

Some of my chief superiors had taken notice of 
this latter peculiarity apparently, as, when the 
recommendations for my promotion to brigadier- 
general after Gettysburg were ignored by the 
"delegation" at Washington, I found myself very 
soon assigned to command of a brigade. When, 
after the sharp tests of the Bristoe and Culpeper 
campaign, I was sent disabled to hospital from 
Rappahannock Station, and found on returning 
to duty that General Bartlett, of the Sixth 
Corps, sent over to relieve the dearth of generals 
in the Fifth, had chosen to take my brigade, 
I cheerfully returned to my regiment. Having 

256 The Passing of the Armies 

in the meantime been applied for to command the 
Regular Brigade in Ayres' Division, I declined the 
offer at the request of General Griffin, who desired 
me to remain with the First Division. So remain- 
ing, I was often put in charge of peculiarly trying 
ventures, advance and rear-guard fights, involving 
command of several regiments, from Spottsylvania 
to Cold Harbor. Immediately after this, being 
still Colonel of the 20th Maine, I was assigned in 
special orders by General Warren to the command 
of a brigade of six Pennsylvania regiments, made 
up of veterans of the First Corps, who had divStin- 
guished themselves at Gettysburg by their heroism 
and their losses, with a fine new regiment of full 
ranks, — mostly veterans also. I devoted nvy best 
energies to the perfecting of this command during 
the campaign before Richmond and the opening 
assaults on Petersburg, but in the first battle here 
was severely wounded leading a charge, after 
rather presumptuously advising against it. Here 
General Grant promoted me on the field to Briga- 
dier-General in terms referring to previous history. 
Returning to the front after months in Annapolis 
Naval School Hospital, I found my splendid bri- 
gade broken up and scattered, and its place filled 
by two new regiments, one from New York and one 
from Pennsylvania, both of finest material and 
personnel, but my command was reduced from the 
largest brigade in the corps to the very smallest. 
Although offered other highly desirable positions, 
I quietly took up this little brigade and with no 
complaints and no petitions for advancement went 

Appomattox 257 

forward in my duty with the best that was in 
me. The noble behavior of these troops was the 
occasion of the brevet of Major-General, and no 
doubt in consideration of meekness in small things 
General Griffin placed under my orders for all 
the active engagements of this campaign, the fine 
Second Brigade of the division, — thus giving me 
a command equal to my former one, or any other 
in the corps. 

So I had reason to believe that General Griffin 
had something to do with General Grant's kind 
remembrance, and negative merits appeared to 
stand for something. Tout vient a point pour qui 
sail attendre — "Everything comes in good time to 
him who knows how to wait. " 

On the morning of the nth our division had been 
moved over to relieve Turner's of the Twenty- 
fourth Corps, Army of the James, near the Court 
House, where they had been receiving some of 
the surrendered arms, especially of the artillery 
on their front, while Mackenzie's cavalry had 
received the surrendered sabers of W. H. F. Lee's 

Praises of General Grant were on every tongue 
for his magnanimity in allowing the horses of the 
artillery and cavalry that were the property of the 
men and not of the Confederacy, to be retained by 
the men for service in restoring and working their 
little plantations, and also in requesting the mana- 
gers of transportation companies in all that region 
to facilitate in every way the return of these men 
to their homes. 

258 The Passlne^ of the Armies 


At noon of the nth the troops of the Army of the 
James took up the march to Lynchburg, to make 
sure of that yet doubtful point of advantage. Lee 
and Grant had both left : Lee for Richmond, to see 
his dying wife; Grant for Washington, only that 
once more to see again Lincoln living. The busi- 
ness transactions had been settled, the parole 
papers made out; all was ready for the last turn, 
— the dissolving-view of the Army of Northern 

It was now the morning of the 12th of April. I 
had been ordered to have my lines formed for the 
ceremony at sunrise. It was a chill gray morning, 
depressing to the senses. But our hearts made 
warmth. Great memories uprose; great thoughts 
went forward. We formed along the principal 
street, from the bluff bank of the stream to near 
the Court House on the left, — to face the last line 
of battle, and receive the last remnant of the arms 
and colors of that great army which ours had been 
created to confront for all that death can do for 
life. We were remnants also: Massachusetts, 
Maine, Michigan, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New 
York; veterans, and replaced veterans; cut to 
pieces, cut down, consolidated, divisions into 
brigades, regiments into one, gathered by State 
origin; this little line, quintessence or metem- 
psychosis of Porter's old corps of Gaines' Mill 
and Malvern Hill ; men of near blood born, made 
nearer by blood shed. Those facing us — now, 
thank God! the same. 

As for me, I was once more with my old command. 

Appomattox 259 

But this was not all I needed. I had taken leave of 
my little First Brigade so endeared to me, and the 
end of the fighting had released the Second from all 
orders from me. But these deserved to share with 
me now as they had so faithfully done in the sterner 
passages of the campaign. I got permission from 
General Griffin to have them also in the parade. 
I placed the First Brigade in line a little to our rear, 
and the Second on the opposite side of the street fac- 
ing us and leaving ample space for the movements 
of the coming ceremony. Thus the whole division 
was out, and under my direction for the occasion, 
although I was not the division commander. I 
thought this troubled General Bartlett a little, 
but he was a manly and soldierly man and made 
no comment. He contented himself by mounting 
his whole staff and with the division flag riding 
around our lines and conversing as he found 
opportunity with the Confederate officers. This 
in no manner disturbed me; my place and part 
were definite and clear. 

Our earnest eyes scan the busy groups on the 
opposite slopes, breaking camp for the last time, 
taking down their little shelter-tents and folding 
them carefully as precious things, then slowly 
forming ranks as for unwelcome duty. And now 
they move. The dusky swarms forge forward 
into gray columns of march. On they come, with 
the old swinging route step and swaying battle- 
flags. In the van, the proud Confederate ensign — 
the great field of white with canton of star-strewn 
cross of blue on a field of red, the regimental 

26o The Passing of the Armies 

battle-flags with the same escutcheon following on, 
crowded so thick, by thinning out of men, that the 
whole column seemed crowned with red. At the 
right of our line our little group mounted beneath 
our flags, the red Maltese cross on a field of white, 
erewhile so bravely borne through many a field 
more crimson than itself, its mystic meaning now 
ruling all. 

The momentous meaning of this occasion im- 
pressed me deeply. I resolved to mark it by 
some token of recognition, which could be no 
other than a salute of arms. Well aware of the 
responsibility assumed, and of the criticisms that 
would follow, as the sequel proved, nothing of 
that kind could move me in the least. The act 
could be defended, if needful, by the suggestion 
that such a salute was not to the cause for which 
the flag of the Confederacy stood, but to its going 
down before the flag of the Union. My main 
reason, however, was one for which I sought no au- 
thority nor asked forgiveness. Before us in proud 
humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood: 
men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the 
fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could 
bend from their resolve; standing before us now, 
thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with 
eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that 
bound us together as no other bond; — ^was not 
such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union 
so tested and assured? 

Instructions had been given ; and when the head 
of each division column comes opposite our group, 

Appomattox 261 

our bugle sounds the signal and instantly our whole 
line from right to left, regiment by regiment in 
succession, gives the soldier's salutation, from 
the "order arms" to the old "carry" — the march- 
ing salute. Gordon at the head of the coltmin, 
riding with heavy spirit and downcast face, catches 
the sound of shifting arms, looks up, and, taking 
the meaning, wheels superbly, making with himself 
and his horse one uplifted figure, with profound 
salutation as he drops the point of his sword to the 
boot toe; then facing to his own command, gives 
word for his successive brigades to pass us with 
the same position of the manual, — honor answering 
honor. On our part not a sound of trumpet more, 
nor roll of drum ; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper 
of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing 
again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, 
and breath-holding, as if it were the passing of the 

As each successive division masks our own, it 
halts, the men face inward towards us across the 
road, twelve feet away; then carefully "dress" 
their line, each captain taking pains for the good 
appearance of his company, worn and half starved 
as they were. The field and staff take their 
positions in the intervals of regiments; generals in 
rear of their commands. They fix bayonets, stack 
arms; then, hesitatingly, remove cartridge-boxes 
and lay them down. Lastly, — reluctantly, with 
agony of expression, — they tenderly fold their flags, 
battle-worn and torn, blood-stained, heart -holding 
colors, and lay them down; some frenziedly rush- 

262 The Passing of the Armies 

ing from the ranks, kneeling over them, clinging to 
them, pressing them to their lips with burning tears. 
And only the Flag of the Union greets the sky ! 

What visions thronged as we looked into each 
other's eyes ! Here pass the men of Antietam, the 
Bloody Lane, the Sunken Road, the Cornfield, the 
Bumside-Bridge; the men whom Stonewall Jack- 
son on the second night at Fredericksburg begged 
Lee to let him take and crush the two corps of the 
Army of the Potomac huddled in the streets in 
darkness and confusion ; the men who swept away 
the Eleventh Corps at Chancellorsville; who left 
six thousand of their companions around the bases 
of Culp's and Cemetery Hills at Gettysburg; these 
survivors of the terrible Wilderness, the Bloody- 
Angle at Spottsylvania, the slaughter pen of Cold 
Harbor, the whirlpool of Bethesda Church! 

Here comes Cobb's Georgia Legion, which held 
the stone wall on Marye's Heights at Fredericks- 
burg, close before which we piled our dead for 
breastworks so that the living might stay and live. 

Here too come Gordon's Georgians and Hoke's 
North Carolinians, who stood before the terrific 
mine explosion at Petersburg, and advancing re- 
took the smoking crater and the dismal heaps 
of dead — ours more than theirs — huddled in the 
ghastly chasm. 

Here are the men of McGowan, Hunton, and 
Scales, who broke the Fifth Corps lines on the 
White Oak Road, and were so desperately driven 
back on that foriorn night of March 31st by my 
thrice-decimated brigade. 

Appomattox 263 

Now comes Anderson's Fourth Corps, only 
Bushrod Johnson's Division left, and this the rem- 
nant of those we fought so fiercely on the Quaker 
Road two weeks ago, with Wise's Legion, too fierce 
for its own good. 

Here passes the proud remnant of Ransom's 
North Carolinians which we swept through Five 
Forks ten days ago, — and all the little that was left 
of this division in the sharp passages at Sailor's 
Creek five days thereafter. 

Now makes its last front A. P. Hill's old Corps, 
Heth now at the head, since Hill had gone too far 
forward ever to return: the men who poured 
destruction into our division at Shepardstown 
Ford, Antietam, in 1862, when Hill reported the 
Potomac running blue with our bodies; the men 
who opened the desperate first day's fight at Get- 
tysburg, where withstanding them so stubbornly 
our Robinson's Brigades lost 1185 men, and the 
Iron Brigade alone 1153, — these men of Heth's 
Division here too losing 2850 men, companions of 
these now looking into our faces so differently. 

What is this but the remnant of Mahone's 
Division, last seen by us at the North Anna? its 
thinned ranks of worn, bright-eyed men recalling 
scenes of costly valor and ever-remembered history. 

Now the sad great pageant — Longstreet and 
his men! What shall we give them for greeting 
that has not already been spoken in volleys of 
thunder and written in lines of fire on all the river- 
banks of Virginia? Shall we go back to Gaines' 
Mill and Malvern Hill? Or to the Antietam of 

264 The Passing of the Armies 

Maryland, or Gettysbtirg of Pennsylvania? — 
deepest graven of all. For here is what remains 
of Kershaw's Division, which left 40 per cent, of its 
men at Antietam, and at Gettysburg with Barks- 
dale's and Semmes' Brigades tore through the 
Peach Orchard, rolling up the right of our gallant 
Third Corps, sweeping over the proud batteries of 
Massachusetts — Bigelow and Philips, — where un- 
der the smoke we saw the earth brown and blue 
with prostrate bodies of horses and men, and the 
tongues of overturned cannon and caissons pointing 
grim and stark in the air. 

Then in the Wilderness, at Spottsylvania and 
thereafter, Kershaw's Division again, in deeds of 
awful glory, held their name and fame, until fate 
met them at Sailor's Creek, where Kershaw him- 
self, and Ewell, and so many more, gave up 
their arms and hopes, — all, indeed, but manhood's 

With what strange emotion I look into these 
faces before which in the mad assault on Rives' 
Salient, June 18, 1864, I was left for dead under 
their eyes! It is by miracles we have lived to see 
this day, — any of us standing here. 

Now comes the sinewy remnant of fierce Hood's 
Division, which at Gettysburg we saw pouring 
through the Devil's Den, and the Plum Run 
gorge; turning again by the left our stubborn 
Third Corps, then swarming up the rocky bastions 
of Round Top, to be met there by equal valor, 
which changed Lee's whole plan of battle and 
perhaps the story of Gettysburg. 

Appomattox 265 

Ah, is this Pickett's Division? — this little group 
left of those who on the lurid last day of Gettys- 
burg breasted level cross-fire and thunderbolts of 
storm, to be strewn back drifting wrecks, where after 
that awful, futile, pitiful charge we buried them in 
graves a furlong wide, with names unknown! 

Met again in the terrible cyclone-sweep over the 
breastworks at Five Forks; met now, so thin, so 
pale, purged of the mortal, — as if knowing pain or 
joy no more. How could we help falling on our 
knees, all of us together, and praying God to 
pity and forgive us all! 

Thus, all day long, division after division comes 
and goes, surrendered arms being removed by our 
wagons in the intervals, the cartridge-boxes emp- 
tied in the street when the ammunition was found 
unserviceable, our men meanwhile resting in place. 

Meantime many men had been coming in late 
in the day, complaining that they had been aban- 
doned by their officers and declaring that they 
preferred to give their parole in surrender, rather 
than encounter all the difficulties and hardships 
of an attempt to escape. 

There are incidents of that scene which may be 
worth repeating. There was opportunity for con- 
verse with several Confederate generals. Their 
bearing was, of course, serious, their spirits sad. 
What various misgivings mingled in their mood 
we could not but conjecture. Levying war against 
the United States was serious business. But one 
certain impression was received from them all; 
they were ready to accept for themselves and for 

266 The Passing of the Armies 

the Confederacy any fate our Government should 
dictate. Lincoln's magnanimity, as Grant's 
thoughtfidness, had already impressed them much. 
They spoke like brave men who mean to stand 
upon their honor and accept the situation. " Gen- 
eral," says one of them at the head of his corps, 
"this is deeply humiliating; but I console myself 
with the thought that the whole country will re- 
joice at this day's business. " "You astonish us, " 
says another of equally high rank, "by your hon- 
orable and generous conduct. I fear we should not 
have done the same by you had the case been 
reversed. " "I will go home, ' ' says a gallant officer 
from North Carolina, "and tell Joe Johnston we 
can't fight such men as you. I will advise him 
to surrender." "I went into that cause" says 
yet another of well-known name, "and I meant it. 
We had our choice of weapons and of ground, and 
we have lost. Now that is my flag (pointing to 
the flag of the Union), and I will prove myself as 
worthy as any of you. " 

In fact that was the whole drift of the talk, and 
there is no reason to doubt that it was sincere. 
Equally so but quite different was the strain of 
another. I saw him moving restlessly about, 
scolding his men and being answered back by them 
instead of ordering them. He seemed so disturbed 
in mind that I rode down the line to see if I could 
not give him a word of cheer. With a respectful 
salutation, calling his attention to the bearing of 
the men on both sides, "This promises well for our 
coming good-will," said I; "brave men may be- 

Appomattox 267 

come good friends." "You're mistaken, sir," 
he turned and said. "You may forgive us but we 
won't be forgiven. There is a rancor in our hearts 
[here came in an anatomical gesture] which you 
Httle dream of. We hate you, sir." "Oh, we 
don't mind much about dreams, nor about hates 
either. Those two Hnes of business are closed," 
was the quiet reply. Then as if a little sorry for 
his opening, fixing his gaze on two ungainly look- 
ing holes in the breast of my coat and a much- 
abused sleeve, he exclaimed in a milder tone: 
"Those were ugly shots. General. Where did you 
get these?" Unfortunately I had to admit that 
this happened on the first day of the campaign in 
an afternoon I had the honor of spending with him 
and his party on the Quaker Road, where there 
were plenty of quakers and shakers also, and some 
few runners who left me a parting souvenir. "I 
suppose you think you did great things there, " 
he burst in. "I was ordered to attack you and 
check your advance; and I did it too with a vim, 
till I found I was fighting three army corps, when 
I thought it prudent to retire." I was really 
sorry to have to reassure him that there was no 
more than the third part of one corps present on 
our side. "I know better," he cries; "I saw the 
flags myself." I think that he did stop to count 
three before he left us, leaving his cap behind. 
But I could not resist saying: "You saw the flags 
of three regiments ; steady eyes could see no more. " 
One of his staff officers corroborates this, and for a 
moment he subsides. Then he breaks out again: 

268 The Passine of the Armies 


"It's a pity you have no lawyers in your army, " — 
I did not know what was coming now, unless he 
wanted to make his will, — "you don't know how to 
make out paroles. Who ever heard of paroles 
being signed by any but the parties paroled?" I 
tried to explain to him that this was a matter of 
mercy and humanity, for if we should keep all 
their men there till every individual could sign his 
parole, half of them would be dead of starvation 
before their turn came. "Nonsense," he rejoins; 
"all that is spargere voces; every lawyer knows such 
a parole as this is a mere hrutum fulmen. " "Sir," 
I answer, "if by brute thunderbolts you mean a 
pledged word to keep the peace accepted and 
adopted by the recipient of the favor, I don't 
believe your people need any lawyer to instruct 
them as to the word of honor. " I was about to 
turn away; he catches the suggestion of the motion 
and issues a parting order. "You go home," he 
cries, "you take these fellows home. That's what 
will end the war." "Don't worry about the end 
of the war, ' ' I answer. ' ' We are going home pretty 
soon, but not till we see you home." "Home!" 
he snatches up the word. "We haven't any. You 
have destroyed them. You have invaded Vir- 
ginia, and ruined her. Her curse is on you." 
"You shouldn't have invited us down here then," 
was the obvious reply. "We expected somebody 
was going to get hurt when we took up your chal- 
lenge. Didn't you? People who don't want to get 
hurt. General, had better not force a fight on 
unwilling Yankees." 

Appomattox 269 

By this time the thing grew comic. The staff 
officers both in blue and gray laughed outright; 
and even his men looked around from their somber 
service and smiled as if they enjoyed the joke. 
He turned away also to launch his "brute thunder- 
bolts, " not waiting to receive my thanks for in- 
struction in Law and Latin. "The wise man 
foreseeth the evil and hideth himself, but the 
foolish pass on and are punished, says the old 
proverb." If there are no exceptions to this rule, 
then this gentleman was not rightly named. 

With this comedy ends, in classic fashion, the 
stern drama of the Appomattox. A strange and 
somber shadow rose up ghost-like from the haunts 
of memory or habit, and rested down over the final 
parting scene. How strong are these ties of habit ! 
How strange the undertone of sadness even at the 
release from prison and from pain! It seems as if 
we had put some precious part of ourselves there 
which we are loath to leave. 

When all is over, in the dusk of evening, the 
long lines of scattered cartridges are set on fire, 
and the lurid flames wreathing the blackness of 
earthly shadows give an unearthly border to our 

Then, stripped of every token of enmity or 
instrument of power to hurt, they march off to give 
their word of honor never to lift arms against the 
old flag again till its holders release them from 
their promise. Then, their ranks broken, the 
bonds that bound them fused away by forces 
stronger than fire, they are free at last to go where 

270 The Passinor of the Armies 


they will; to find their homes, now most likely 
stricken, despoiled by war. 
j.y Twenty-seven thousand men paroled ; seventeen 
thousand stand of arms laid down or gathered up ; 
a hundred battle-flags. But regiments and bri- 
gades — or what is left of them — ^have scarce a score 
of arms to surrender; having thrown them away 
by road and riverside in weariness of flight or 
hopelessness of heart, disdaining to carry them 
longer but to disaster. And many a bare staff was 
there laid down, from which the ensign had been 
torn in the passion and struggle of emotions, and 
divided piece by piece; a blurred or shrunken 
star, a rag of smoke-stained blue from the war- 
worn cross, a shred of deepened dye from the rent 
field of red, to be treasured for precious keepsakes 
of manhood's test and heirlooms for their children. 
Nor blame them too much for this, nor us for 
not blaming them more. Although, as we believed, 
fatally wrong in striking at the old flag, misreading 
its deeper meaning and the innermost law of the 
people's life, blind to the signs of the times in the 
march of man, they fought as they were taught, 
true to such ideals as they saw, and put into their 
cause their best. For us they were fellow-soldiers 
as well, suffering the fate of arms. We could not 
look into those brave, bronzed faces, and those 
battered flags we had met on so many fields where 
glorious manhood lent a glory to the earth that 
bore it, and think of personal hate and mean 
revenge. Whoever had misled these men, we had 
not. We had led them back, home. Whoever had 

Appomattox 271 

made that quarrel, we had not. It was a remnant 
of the inherited curse for sin. We had ptirged it 
away, with blood-offerings. We were all of us 
together factors of that high will which, working 
often through illusions of the human, and following 
ideals that lead through storms, evolves the en- 
franchisement of man. 

Forgive us, therefore, if from stern, steadfast 
faces eyes dimmed with tears gazed at each other 
across that pile of storied relics so dearly there laid 
down, and brothers' hands were fain to reach 
across that rushing tide of memories which divided 
us, yet made us forever one. 

It was our glory only that the victory we had 
won was for country, for the well-being of others^ 
of these men before us as well as for ourselves and 
ours. Our joy was a deep, far, unspoken satisfac- 
tion, — the approval, as it were, of some voiceless 
and veiled divinity like the appointed "Angel of 
the Nation" of which the old scriptures tell — ■ 
leading and looking far, yet mindful of sorrows; 
standing above all human strife and fierce passages 
of trial; not marking faults nor seeking blame; 
transmuting into factors of the final good corrected 
errors and forgiven sins; assuring of immortal in- 
heritance all pure purpose and noble endeavor, 
humblest service and costliest sacrifice, unconscious 
and even mistaken martyrdoms offered and suffered 
for the sake of man. 

Now on the morrow, over all the hillsides in 
the peaceful sunshine, are clouds of men on foot or 
horse, singly or in groups, making their earnest way 

2']2 The Passino: of the Armies 


as by the instinct of the ant, each with his own little 
burden, each for his own little home. And we are 
left alone, and lonesome. We miss our spirited 
antagonists in the game, and we lose interest. The 
weight is taken out of the opposite scale, and we go 
down. Never are we less gay. And when we took 
up the long, round-about march homeward, it was 
dull to plod along looking only at the muddy road, 
without scouts and skirmishers ahead, and reckless 
of our flanks. It was tame to think we could ride 
up to any thicket of woods we pleased, without 
starting at the chirrup of those little bluebirds 
whose cadence was so familiar to our ears, and 
made so deep a lodgment in our bosoms too, some- 
times. It was dreary to lie down and sleep at 
night and think there was no vigilant picket out on 
the dubious-looking crests around to keep faithful 
watch and ward. And it seems sheer waste of 
opportunity and mark of military incapacity, when 
we emerge from some deep wood or defile and 
no battery belches destruction upon us from so 
advantageous a position as the commanding heights 

But slowly these lingering images of memory or 
habit are lost in the currents of a deeper mood; 
we wonder at that mysterious dispensation whereby 
the pathway of the kingdom of Love on earth must 
needs be cut through by the sword, and why it must 
be that by such things as we had seen and done 
and suffered, and lost and won, a step is taken in 
the homeward march of man. 



ALTHOUGH fraught with deepest interest 
and filled with occupations of great variety, 
our sojourn at Appomattox Court House 
was a hard experience. We had raced to that 
point in lightest marching order; there was no 
superfluity of equipage. The packs were slender; 
overcoats and blankets had proved too heavy for 
those thirty-mile marches. The shelter- tent cloths 
had to serve for these, and for towels also, which 
they most resembled. The rations reduced to 
sediment in the haversacks smelt of lead and 
gunpowder. To be sure, a few supply wagons had 
managed to get up to us, and our cavalry had 
captured some trains at Appomattox Station; 
but all we had we shared with our surrendering 
competitors, technically called "the enemy," — 
now become our sympathizing guests. For a day 
or two past all hands had to forage for a living, 
and many a ten-mile tramp resulted only in arm- 
fuls of com on the cob, which needed a good deal 
of soaking to yield to our practised jaws. It got it. 

For when on Saturday morning we took up the 
18 273 

274 The Passing of the Armies 

march for Burkeville and had got well stretched 
out on the road, we were overtaken by a pouring 
rain, which made mulch of everything. Seeking 
the center of the earth by a force of gravity we 
cotdd fully sympathize with, it soon formed a junc- 
tion in the roads and fields to the extent of four or 
five inches of "half and half," denominated in the 
Low-German dialect "mudde"; but later circum- 
stances inclined certain travelers to transpose the 
superfluous final "d " and put it to use as the initial 
prefix of a deeply descriptive adjective. Drenched, 
hungry, draggled in mire, that long, lank body 
presented an image not unlike that reported by 
Daniel on the king's dream, — the head gold, the 
belly brass, the legs iron, and the feet clay, — 
but the proportions were not so well observed. 
We were informed in animated tones that we were 
to draw rations that night, — but what kind of a 
"draw" it was to be we were by no means assured. 
We noticed that the goal was fixed a long stretch 
ahead ; it suggested to us what we had seen offered 
a team of cattle tolled on by a show - of forage 
fastened well forward of the yoke or pole. 

Near Evergreen Station we struck the Southside 
Railroad, and hoping to save the men's strength, I 
told the colonel of the leading regiment to have 
his men take the railroad track and keep out of the 
heavy mud. They tried it for a while, but soon I 
saw them jumping back into the mire ankle deep; 
and, wondering at this, I felt rebuked for my sim- 
plicity, when informed that the men found it much 
more wearing to watch the varying distance of the 

The Return of the Army 275 

cross-ties spaced anjrwhere from eighteen inches 
to two feet, and measure every step accordingly, 
than to take the road as it was, and be free to put 
their feet down wherever they could get them out 
again. So dear is liberty. 

Long after dark we were led to a place desig- 
nated for a camp. To reach this we were counter- 
marched or turned off on a tangent for quite a 
space, and halted on a flat-pine land, some cubit 
lower and knee deeper than the road. I heard no 
orders given the regiments to "break ranks," the 
effort of the officers was to get their men together, 
that they might be looked after, and possibly, 
though a whimsical suggestion, to draw rations. 
But no commissary could find us in that dark and 
drench, even if the wagons could worry through 
the muddle. Fire would be of no use ; the thought 
of trying to make one would do more good, for it 
would raise our spirits to join "the mighty laughter 
of the vernal floods." It was interesting to hear 
the men — poor fellows — making their beds, some 
on the rugged roots of the pines, or cradled be- 
tween two broken branches to lift them from softer 
pillows, or securing the shelter of a big bough, 
which ever and anon swaying under accumulated 
weight, bent down to envelop them in unwelcome 
"sheets." Now some one seeking the open, — 
less covering the best, — reckless of all things, now 
that they had returned to "chaos and old night." 
One bright, belated fellow, seeking to share some 
luckier sleeper's cot, was heard muttering with 
"wakeful " reminiscence, "Sure, a Yank wud shleep 

276 The Passing of the Armies 

uf the divil sat at his hid!" To us, in so-called 
headquarters — though quarters were not perfectly 
distinguished that night amidst such mingling of 
the elements — a kind of ichthyosaurian sleep came 
at last — dreaming that the whole earth was about 
this way once, and fully sympathizing with the 
Hebrew description of it as 'Tohoo vaw Vohoo, " 
if not exactly "without form and void. " 

In the morning the men sighted the few places 
where they could get splinters enough to make a 
fire to cook their last "ration" of pickled pork and 
gunpowder. Then pulling out at 6 a.m. under 
chilly rain and lowering clouds, we took the road 
for Farmville. It was Sunday afternoon when we 
reached its vicinity, and were welcomed by a sky 
clear and serene, overlooking the town. The 
trains were there, and so a breakfast — in literal 
terms, though belated fact. The clouds had rolled 
away and field and camp were flooded with sun- 
shine. All the domestic arts were soon in evidence, 
— largely that of washing-day; — as if we had not 
had enough in the previous twenty-four hours. 
Gradually a Sabbath peace stole over the scene. 
All were at rest, mind and body, and the very 
heart of nature breathed soft airs and mellow light. 

Headquarters had been taken in the ample 
front yard of an old mansion of the ancient regime. 
Here at about four o'clock the fine German Band 
of my old First Brigade came over to reciprocate 
the smiles of heaven by choice music, ministering 
also to our spiritual upgoings. They were in the 
midst of a bright and joyous strain when there came 

The Return of the Army 277 

galloping up the old familiar figure — the mud- 
splashed, grave-faced, keen-eyed cavalryman, — 
the message-bearer. It was no uncommon thing 
to receive a military telegram in those days; but 
something in the manner and look of this messenger 
took my attention. He rode up in front of the 
sentinel and the colors, and dismounted. My 
chief of staff went out to meet him. 'T think the 
General would wish to treat this as personal," he 
said. I beckoned him to the rear of our group, and 
he handed me a yellow tissue-paper telegram. It 
read as I remember it, — the original was kept by 
somebody as a memento: 

"Washington, April 15, 1865. 
"The President died this morning. Wilkes 
Booth the assassin. Secretary Seward dangerously 
wounded. The rest of the Cabinet, General Grant, 
and other high officers of the Government included 
in the plot of destruction." 

I should have been paralyzed by the shock, had 
not the sense of responsibility overborne all other 
thoughts. If treachery had overturned the Govern- 
ment, and had possession of the Capitol, there was 
work for us to do. But the first thought was of the 
effect of this upon our soldiers. They, for every 
reason, must be held in hand. "Put a double 
guard on the whole camp immediately. Tell the 
regimental commanders to get all their men in, 
and allow no one to leave, " — was the first word 
sent out. "Then tell the gentlemen I would like 

278 The Passing- of the Armies 


to see them here." I stepped back and with 
especial pains to be calm and cotirteous I thanked 
and dismissed the band, and they quietly withdrew. 
All eyes were on me, but not until my officers came 
up did I disclose to any one this appalling news. 
I enjoined upon them absolute reticence until we 
had made, all secure. Against what? and whom? 
Our men. They could be trusted well to bear any 
blow but this. Their love for the President was 
something marvelous. Their great loving hearts 
of sterling manhood seemed to have gathered 
him in. After each success and especially after 
each great reverse, he had been accustomed to 
come out to see them. That honest, homely face, 
showing how heavily pressed the terrible burden 
that had come upon him, — of settling the "irre- 
pressible conflict" which had been growing for a 
century; that look of an infinite sadness in the 
eyes that rested with such trust and such solicitude 
on these men, the only instrimients with which to 
fulfill his task ! Heart-wrung by the sacrifice, he had 
taken deep hold on the soldier's heart, stirring its 
many chords. Now the cowardly, brutal blow, 
when his words of gentleness to all were still warm 
as the breath of the returning spring, must stir 
their yet unfathomed depths. It might take but 
little to rouse them to a frenzy of blind revenge. 
And right before them lay a city, one of the nerve- 
centers of the rebellion, and an easy and inviting 
prey to vengeance. Large quantities of goods, 
military and merchandise, had been stored there, 
it was said; many citizens had gathered there for 

The Return of the Army 279 

safety against the marauders of a demoralized 
army; a young ladies' seminary, we were told, 
serving especially as a sort of sanctuary for the 
tender and sensitive, which they thought would be 
respected even in those turbulent times. 

How could we be sure that change of century had 
made men different from what they were when 
Tilly at Magdeburg, Cromwell at Wexford, or 
Wellington at San Sebastian had been powerless 
to restrain dire passions, excited by far less cause? 
How could we be sure that lessons and thoughts 
of home, the habit of well formed character, and 
the discipline of the field would be sufficient to 
hold within the boimds of patience men who saw 
that most innocent and noble-hearted man, their 
best-beloved, the stricken victim of infernal out- 
rage? I knew my men thoroughly, high-minded 
and self-controlled; but what if now this blackest 
crime should fire their hearts to reckless and 
implacable vengeance? 

But a heavier responsibility, perhaps, awaited 
us. Strange forebodings pressed upon the mind. 
It seemed as if the darkest things might be yet to 
come; as if, now that men of honor had given up 
the fight, it had fallen to baser hands; as if victory, 
magnanimity, and charity, accepted by those who 
had lost in the manly appeal to arms, were all to 
avail nothing against the sullen treacheries that 
lurked in the shadows of the capital. 

As I was pacing the ground, wrapped in anxious 
thoughts, the lady of the house — there were never 
any men at home in those days — came out to 

28o The Passing of the Armies 

ask what had happened that distiirbed us so 

"It is bad news for the South," said I. "Is it 
Lee or Davis?" she asked, a look of pain pinching 
her features. "I must tell you, madam, with a 
warning," I replied. "I have put your house 
under a strict guard. It is Lincoln. " 

I was sorry to see her face brighten with an 
expression of relief. "The South has lost its best 
friend, madam," was the only thing to say. 

All being now secure in camp, with the assurance 
that the news should be prudently broken to the 
men, instinct and habit turned to the superior 
officers. Even the companionship of these ex- 
perienced men would be some relief; and perhaps 
there might be counsel to be taken now, as in so 
many a dark and boding hour before. Leaving 
General Gregory at my quarters with instructions, 
I mounted my horse. My thought was antici- 
pated. Scarcely had I got beyond the limits of 
our camp when I saw a figure often welcome to 
many eyes, — Charles Griffin riding up, — our corps 
commander now, and never more prized than at 
this hour. "I was coming to see you," he says; 
"now let us get Ayres. " Finding Ayres — soldier 
born, and tried and true, — we discussed possible 
tactics on an unknown field. We did not pretend 
to be men of influence in statecraft; but we well 
knew we were likely, if anything was to be done, 
to be men of action. So we had reason and right to 
forecast events. All we knew as yet of the con- 
dition of things at Washington was what the brief 

The Return of the Army 281 

telegram had told. But that looked dark enough. 
It was a daring attempt, and, as it was told to us, 
must have had reserved force to support it, as well 
as reckless impulse to carry it out. Lee's army had 
been broken up ; many able and honorable officers, 
and perhaps thirty thousand of their best men 
had given their parole; but Davis and officers 
of his Government had got away, and there were 
other armies and other men, whom the shock of 
the surrender and remoteness from the controll- 
ing influence had made desperate rather than 

Our little conference was soon concluded. ' ' Now 
let us go up and see Meade," said Griffin. We 
found him sad — very sad. He had only two corps 
with him, the Second and Fifth; the Sixth had 
been sent in another direction. And the course of 
dealings in this last campaign led to gloomy fore- 
bodings as to his own treatment when we should 
arrive at Washington, We well knew what his 
mood and meditations were — like St. Paul's: "I 
go bound in spirit up to Jerusalem, not knowing 
the things that shall befall me there." But this 
supreme exigency roused all the patriot and soldier 
in him. 

The upshot of this conference was expressed in 
words I well remember: "The plan is to destroy 
the Government by assassination. They probably 
have means to get possession of the capital before 
anybody can stop them. There is nothing for it 
but to push the army to Washington, and make 
Grant military dictator until we can restore con- 

282 The Passine of the Armies 


stitutional government." This may be smiled at 
now, as the habit is after the peril has passed, 
especially on the part of those who never realized 
it. But in the situation of things then, there was 
little to laugh at. The spirit of that evening con- 
ference showed one reliance to be counted on in 
case the need had come. 

We returned at evening to our several stations, 
ready for anything. But no worse news came from 
the capital. Our soldiers, like our people, wonder- 
fully patient in severest stress, kept their self- 
command even now. So the march was resumed 
calmly and orderly as before, and more so, now 
that we had free course and a fair road. In the 
meantime I had been assigned to the command 
of the First Division of the Fifth Corps, General 
Bartlett having been transferred to the Ninth 
Corps at Alexandria. Two days' additional rations 
were issued at daylight on the 17th, and we 
marched out for Burkeville. Near here we were 
by some blunder switched off on the Danville 
Road, and encamped near Liberty Church by the 
Little Sandy River. The erroneous move being 
now discovered, we resumed our march early the 
next morning, almost retracing our steps, and 
finally encamped near Burkeville. On the nine- 
teenth, the day appointed for the funeral of the 
President at Washington, an order came from the 
War Department for us to halt the march and 
hold all still while the funeral was passing at the 
capital. Then we thought, why not for us a 
funeral? For the shadow of one reverenced and 

The Return of the Army 283 

beloved was to pass before our souls that day, and 
we would review him, now. 

We began by draping headquarters tents with 
mourning rosettes of crape; then also draping the 
colors and our sword-hilts, with a wreath of crape, 
too, on the left arms of all. At noon, the solemn 
boom of the minute-guns, speaking power and 
sorrow, hushed all the camp. I summoned the 
senior chaplain of the division, Father Egan, and 
told him we looked to him for the memorial address, 
cautioning him to prepare beforehand, not so 
much what to say, as what not to say. For I 
knew his Irish warmth and power of speech, and 
that he might, if not restrained, stir the hearts of 
the men too much for our control. He assured 
me he would be very careful. The division was 
formed in hollow square, facing inward. The old 
flags were brought to the front of their regiments, 
battle-torn and smoke-dimmed, draped in sorrow, 
but some of them blazoned with a crimson deeper 
than their red, touching the stars. Behind these 
the men stacked arms, and stood, tense and 
motionless, as a hushed sea. Those faces spoke 
depths of manliness, and reaches of deeds words 
do not record. The veterans of terrible campaigns, 
the flushed faces from Appomattox, the burning 
hearts turned homewards, mighty memories and 
quenchless love held innermost. On the open face 
of the square, on a little mound, we planted the 
red Maltese cross of the division, — itself emblem 
and memorial of great things suffered and done for 
man. Around it gathered the generals and staff: 

284 The Passin^^ of the Armies 

Griffin chief, never forgetting his old division, 
with which he had passed through all things from 
the beginning, its name and soul the same, after 
terrible transmutations, — Griffin, graceful in figure, 
sincere and brave of speech, reverential and re- 
ligious in cherished thought ; Ayres, too, ours from 
the beginning, solid and sure as the iron guns he 
brought, holding all his powers well in hand, faced 
to the front; gallant, ever-ready, dashing Pearson; 
dear old Gregory, pure-souled as crystal, thinking 
never of self, calmest in death's carnival; others, 
younger, — ^how shall I name them all? Staff 
officers, cool, keen, and swift as sword flash, ful- 
filling vital trusts, even at vital cost; — of such our 
group. On the little platform of ammunition 
boxes I held myself close in reach of the chaplain 
ready to enforce my warning. 

Catching the keynote of the last cannon-boom, 
strikes in the sincere, deep-feeling German Band 
with that wondrous "Russian Hymn" swelling 
with its flood of music, — deep calling unto deep : 

" God, the all -terrible ; Thou who ordainest, 

Thunder Thy clarion, and lightning Thy sword." 

That whelming flood of chords with the breath- 
stifling chromatic cadences, as if to prepare us for 
whatever life or death cotdd bring. 

Then, a few words — ^such as cotdd be spoken — 
introducing the occasion and its orator. His very 
first words deepened the passion of the music 
echoing in the hearts of that stern, impression- 
able, loving, remembering assembly. With counte- 

The Return of the Army 285 

nance precluding speech, in measured articula- 
tion made more impressive by its slightly foreign 
cast, he launches forth his thrilling text: "And 
she, being instructed of her mother, said, 'Give 
me here the head of John Baptist in a charger.'" 
The application went through men's minds with 
a thrill. But he took it up phrase by phrase. 
The spirit of rebellion against the country's life 
and honor, he said, incited its followers to mur- 
der the innocent and just. Even on its own 
showing, the cause of secession was narrow and 
trivial. The will of a section rooted in self-interest, 
should not outweigh the vital interests of a whole 
people. Lincoln had committed no crime in being 
constitutionally elected President of the United 
States. He then portrayed the character of Lin- 
coln, his integrity, his rugged truth, his innocence 
of wrong, his loyalty and lofty fidelity to the people. 
Then having raised this figure to its highest ideal 
lights and most endearing attractiveness, he pic- 
tured him stricken down by dastard hand in the 
very midst of acts of mercy and words of great- 
hearted sympathy and love. Gathering up the 
emotions of his audience with searching, imploring 
glance, he reminded the soldiers of Lincoln's love 
for them, and theirs for him; that brotherhood of 
suffering that made them one in soul with him. 

"And will you endure this sacrilege?" he cried. 
"Can heavenly charity tolerate such crime under 
the flag of this delivered country?" "Will you 
not rather sweep such a spirit out of the land 
forever, and cast it, root and branch, into ever- 

286 The Passing of the Armies 

lasting burning?" Men's faces flushed and paled. 
Their muscles trembled. I saw them grasp as for 
their stacked muskets, instinctively, from habit, 
not knowing what else, or what, to do. I myself 
was under the spell. Well that the commander was 
there, to check the flaming orator. Men could not 
bear it. You could not, were I able to reproduce 
the scene. Then the speaker stopped. He stood 
transfixed. I seized his arm. "Father Egan, you 
must not stop . Turn this excitement to some good . " 
"I will," he whispers. Then lifting his arm full 
height, he brought it down with a tremendous 
sweep, as if to gather in the whole quivering circle 
before him, and went on: "Better so. Better to 
die glorious, than to live infamous. Better to be 
buried beneath a nation's tears, than to walk the 
earth guilty of a nation's blood. Better, thou- 
sandfold, forever better, Lincoln dead, than Davis 

Then admonished of the passion he was again 
arousing, he passed to an exhortation that rose 
into a prayer, then to a paean of victory, and with 
an oath of new consecration to the undying cause 
of freedom and right, he gave us back to ourselves, 
better soldiers, and better men. Who that heard 
those burning words can ever forget them? And 
who that saw, can ever forget that congregation 
in the field? Meekly returning from their glories 
at Appomattox, and sternly sharing — for it was of 
theirs also — the sacrifice at Washington. Stead- 
fast and noble in every test, unto the end. God 
bless them beyond, likewise ! 

The Return of the Army 287 

That evening came the orders for the corps to 
stretch itself out for permanent duty along the 
railroad between Burke ville and Petersburg, and 
the next morning we moved for the new field. 
Ayres' Division took ground from Burkeville to 
Nottaway Court House, his headquarters being at 
the latter place, which was also headquarters of the 
corps. From this Crawford's Division extended 
six miles farther to the station called "Blacks and 
Whites," where he made his headquarters. His 
jurisdiction also reached to Wilson's Station. Here 
my division, the First, took up the line from Wil- 
son's Station to Petersburg, headquarters being 
at Wilson's. The distance from here to Peters- 
burg being twenty-seven miles, made for me a dis- 
proportionate responsibility, and an order from 
army headquarters terminated my jurisdiction at 
Sutherland's Station, ten miles out. 

Our assigned duty was to guard the railroads and 
the adjacent territory. But there were many other 
duties necessitated by the condition of the country 
and of the inhabitants. This region had been 
overrun successively by the two hostile armies for 
the last two years, hence it was now a scene of 
desolation. This was exemplified within the limits 
of my own command. My First Brigade, com- 
manded by Colonel Sniper, had its headquarters at 
Wilson's, which was in the vicinity of our conflicts 
on the White Oak Road ; my Second Brigade, under 
General Gregory, made headquarters at Ford's 
Station, its jurisdiction covering the battlefields 
of Five Forks, Dinwiddie, and the White Oak Road; 

288 The Passingf of the Armies 


and the Third, the Veteran Brigade, of nine 
regiments — lately my own — commanded now by 
Colonel Edmunds of the 32 Massachusetts, was 
placed at Sutherland's Station, which covered the 
fields of the Quaker Road, Armstrong's Mill, 
Hatcher's Run, and of many minor fights on the 
left of our old entrenched lines. It was familiar 
ground. It was painful to be brought into contact 
with the ruin, waste, and desolation that had been 
wrought upon proud old Virginia, and her once 
prosperous homes. Well were they reluctant to 
declare themselves foes of the American Union; 
dearly had they paid for the distinction when the 
Confederacy demanded that its defiance to the 
Union should be enforced under their prestige and 
entrenched upon their soil. 

Settling into our new position we soon found that 
obeying orders was not the whole of our duty. To 
be sure the war was not yet over by official recogni- 
tion; but these suffering people were our own, — 
citizens of our common country we had fought to 
preserve. Had they not been so, humanity and 
honor would have commanded our aid. Peace 
indeed there was on all the face of the country, — 
the desolation that has been called a "Roman 
peace." But the inhabitants we had to defend 
against lawlessness and violence, and save them 
from starvation and despair. Since the breaking 
up of the rebel lines, three weeks before, the whole 
region had been a scene of marauding upon the 
defenseless citizens, who were unable to remove 
to any other place than this, which they had still 

The Return of the Army 289 

to call their home. The depraved and soulless 
take advantage of others' misery, and make the 
day of calamity their holiday. Such had been the 
case at Richmond but a few weeks before, when, 
freed from the control of Lee's army, it was 
pillaged and fired by the base hidden within its 
limits, and it was humane conquerors who restored 
order and repaired hurt and harm. We found the 
negroes especially unruly. All restraints which had 
hitherto held them in check were set loose by the 
sudden collapse of the rebel armies. The flood- 
gates were opened to the rush of animal instinct. 
The only notion of freedom apparently entertained 
by these bewildered people was to do as they 
pleased. That was what they had reason to sup- 
pose white men did. To act according to each 
one's nature was liberty, contrasted with slavery. 
Nvimbers gave them a kind of frenzy. Without 
accustomed support, without food, or opportunity 
to work, they not unnaturally banded together; 
and without any serious organization and probably 
without much deliberate plotting of evil, they still 
spread terror over the country. They swarmed 
through houses and homes demanding food, 
seizing all goods they could lay their hands on, 
abusing the weak, terrifying women, and threaten- 
ing to burn and destroy. This was an evil that 
had to be met promptly, and we construed our 
orders to protect the country liberally. So the 
First Brigade under Colonel Sniper was sent out 
charged with the duty of protecting the homes of 
the people, and the peace of the community, more 

290 The Passinc: of the Armies 


especially against the depredations of the lawless 
negro bands, of whom there were about a thousand 
within my jurisdiction. For our lines were ex- 
tensive in depth as well as length, somewhat to 
the confusion of ordinary geometry. A constant 
reconnoissance was going on to break up, drive off, 
or hold at bay the hordes that were hovering about 
the towns and farm-houses. In cases of personal 
violence or outrage, my orders were sharp, and the 
process more summary than that authorized by 
courts. There was no other way. 

Meantime the condition of the citizens of that 
region had excited the attention of our authorities, 
and much correspondence had been going on. 
Orders hitherto had forbidden us to furnish food 
for citizens unless they took the oath of allegiance 
to the United States. But conditions compelled 
us sometimes to take responsibility not strictly 
authorized. I had adopted some measures of a 
domestic character. One of them was in the 
commissary's and quartermaster's departments. 
The lack of food among the people was a condition 
which laid on us an imperative duty. We had 
seized, of course, all the commissary's supplies 
belonging to the Confederacy and distributed 
them among the citizens. I felt obliged now to 
take under control all the necessities of life to 
whomsoever belonging, both for protection and for 
judicial distribution. Mills, shops, and stores were 
also taken under control and put in operation, and 
the products distributed according to need. Strict 
accounts were kept; debits and credits carefully 

The Return of the Army 291 

adjusted to the parties concerned. Abandoned 
vehicles, implements, and animals, chiefly Con- 
federate property, were seized and put in the hands 
of those who could make use of them for livelihood. 
We also had to undertake the administration of 
justice. There were no courts, or municipal or 
police officers, exercising functions in that region; 
in fact no semblance of authority, human or divine, 
except our own. We had no civil jurisdiction; we 
acted under the laws of war, — not of martial, but 
of military law, which admits of some discretion 
on the part of its responsible agents. It is said: 
"Necessity knows no law"; but it compelled us to 
make them. There was a great back country 
around us. Demoralized relics and stragglers from 
both the Confederate and the Union armies were 
coming in, and became for a time our guests, volun- 
tary or involuntary, according to behavior. Com- 
plaints were constant from civil and military sources 
as to the misbehavior of some of these men. Now 
and then charges were brought against our own men. 
These cases must be disposed of. Otherwise our 
provost guard would be swamped with prisoners. 
So a division court-martial was duly organized, 
with General Pearson as president. This was in 
effect at least a tribunal of justice, and it inspired 
respect, as well as compelled obedience. The court, 
ably conducted, was very careful in its procedure 
and its decisions. It came to be looked upon as a 
legitimate if not legal authority. Citizens high and 
low were often the complainers, and, assuming 
the power to summon witnesses and cause attend- 

292 The Passing of the Armies 

ance, we could generally discover the real culprit 
or delinquent, who preferred to accept our decision 
rather than risk himself away from our protection. 
The queer thing about our court was that its fame 
soon went abroad, and it was appealed to by many 
reputable citizens who could not otherwise settle 
their difficulties with their old servants or with 
each other. We did not undertake to settle ques- 
tions of property, but only of conduct. The records 
of that court must be very amusing. I do not 
think they all went to the archives at Washington. 
Nor would I quite wish to disclose all that came 
within my knowledge. 

But we had one constant difficulty no recon- 
noissance or court could settle. Our Government 
authorized the issue of food from our commissary 
stores absolutely necessary for the sustenance of 
citizens; but only on the condition, to be strictly 
enforced, that the beneficiaries should first take 
the oath of allegiance to the United States. Many 
of our clients gave this rather too promptly for 
the satisfaction of our solemn justiciary of the 
commissary department. There was a misgiving — • 
not to indulge a pun — ^lest people who had been 
calling the Yankees all the bad names they could 
hit upon, were altogether too easy in accepting 
favors of them, and in their new kind of swearing 
towards the United States. For my own part, I 
had not this opinion. I believed there was more 
genuineness in this declaration of allegiance than 
in their real loyalty to the Confederacy. Very 
many felt that they had been drawn into this by a 

The Return of the Army 293 

play upon their State pride and the example of 
great men whom they revered. In truth it was a 
grave responsibility they took upon themselves, 
these leading minds, in issues so deep-reaching and 
effects so disastrous to the well-being of a State 
honored and beloved by us all for its part in the 
making of the Union. 

Some cases of this oath-taking drew their own 
peculiar meed of tender regard. One such was 
reported to me by our young provost marshal. A 
young lady of finest manners had ridden to our 
headquarters, followed by a servant on a mule 
bearing a coarse bag, which she earnestly desired 
to have filled with materials for food, if nothing 
more than potatoes. The story of her home was 
enough. Our provost marshal, who kept our oaths 
for us, told her of the requirement, and demanded 
this acknowledgment, asking her to kiss the book in 
token. To both of these suggestions she opposed 
a very firm determination. Indeed, considering 
the aspect of these two respective objects, I would 
not have blamed her if she preferred to reverse the 
directions, swear to the book and kiss the officer. 
Her charming and coquettish ways, indicating a 
habit of easy conquest, caused an aesthetic efflores- 
cence among the emotional susceptibilities of this 
personage, and so melted the firm face of his official 
habit, that he did not consider himself wholly fit 
for duty, and came to me stating the case, and 
asking if he might bring the reluctant petitioner 
for a hearing before me. Of course I assented, 
notwithstanding his remark that she was considered 

294 The Passing^ of the Armies 

the belle of Dinwiddle, and the fact that I was 
not then on the superannuated list myself. Her 
graceful bearing as she entered my tent, composed 
manner of address, and I must add her beauty 
as she adjusted herself to our courtesies, left me no 
doubt of her status, — whatever might be my own. 
My guests took two camp chairs placed at an angle 
from my center of about sixty degrees, which I 
believe is the frost angle, perhaps salutary here. 
I could not but be amused at their mutual bearing 
in stating the case in which they were presumed to 
be antagonist parties. It would be an infelicity in 
language to say my young officer was demoralized. 
On the contrary, all the moral emotions — that is 
to say, the spiritual — were at a sublime exaltation. 
But it was a comical sight when in their presenta- 
tion of the case, they exchanged glances. Her air 
was that of an injured party, and he the aggressor. 
At every soft impeachment his color rose to the 
Jacqueminot. He was a handsome fellow; there 
were united states to which she might be ready to 
take the oath of allegiance, where the vitalizing 
function in testimony of loyal devotion would not 
be sustained by a book. 

The captivating client stated her case with 
Ciceronian skill. She said it was unreasonable to 
require her to entertain a feeling of duty and 
allegiance to the "North, " while her brothers and 
all her manly friends were in the Southern service ; 
and that it was cruel, if not more deeply immoral, 
to demand the form of such a declaration when she 
could not give it heartily or truly; moreover, to 

The Return of the Army 295 

take advantage of her distress to demand what was 
immoral and impossible, did not accord with her 
ideal of chivalrous gentlemen. 

"My dear young lady, you intend to live in this 
country, do you not?" began the not altogether 
self-commanding commander, endeavoring to re- 
tain his official importance and personal composure. 

"That is my present intention, " was the demure 
reply, which allowed a little "leeway" for the 
possibilities now sublimating the faculties of the 
ingenuous youth, her duty-bound opponent. 

"Then you will have to live under the authority 
of the United States of America," was the next 
link in the inexorable logic prepared to compel our 
young rebel into the compliance necessary for our 
consciences to yield to our hearts in granting what- 
ever she should ask. 

" I shall obey the laws of my State, " she astutely 

"Your more immediate personal and domestic 
plans can be sanctioned and consummated, no 
doubt, under the laws of Virginia," proceeds the 
prosy, didactic court of final resort, "but Virginia 
is not at present exercising her functions as a State 
anywhere; and under the jurisdiction of what you 
will allow to be the de facto power of the United 
States, in order to enjoy its advantages and recipro- 
cate its good will, you will be reqmred to declare 
yourself its loyal citizen, and not its enemy." 

"If to grant my humble and needful request," 
replies the indomitable Portia, "you require me 
to swear that I will bear true allegiance to the 

296 The Passing of the Armies 

United States, when by her actual power she can 
compel me to do so or withdraw her protection, 
I am ready to say, not that I do, but that I will, 
bear such allegiance. " 

"Do you say now that you will do so, — the 
'will* meaning not simply in future time, but with 
full purpose?" interrogates the dazed General. 

"I will take that oath," is the gracious conces- 
sion; and the court is able to take a conscience- 
approving breath. 

The fair conqueror, triumphant in her refutation 
of the slanderous pronouncement that "the woman 
who deliberates is lost," steps forward, bends 
over the book deftly covered with a fold of her 
soft handkerchief, — both held in the trembling 
hand of the young officer, who balances himself 
with such extremely Delsartian proneness that he 
does not seem to fear it if he should fall completely 
forward, — and the saving oath is taken. With 
what mental reservation, or spiritual committals, 
the defective records of earth do not show. There 
was, however, a lingering twilight of the transaction 
in the fact that there was immediately a daily 
unaccountable diminution among the finer delica- 
cies of our private headquarters' mess-stores; 
and that on moonlight evenings there was as item 
of the report, "present but not accounted for," 
concerning the horse and also the material personal- 
ity of our provost marshal; both of whom had 
undoubtedly passed into a state which science 
taking refuge in electrical metaphysics denominates 
"the fourth dimension." 

The Return of the Army 297 

We were kept very busy. Even the relief of 
duty from Sutherland's to Petersburg left us 
seventeen miles to care for, and enlarging duties. 
Oirr numbers were increasing rapidly. Not only 
were many men belonging to our command recalled 
from detached service to their regiments but 
eighteen hundred convalescents and recruits be- 
longing to the Fifth Corps reported themselves at 
Sutherland's to be cared for there and thence dis- 
tributed to their proper commands. The troops 
and garrisons at City Point were also assigned to 
the corps and finally taken up in Ayres' Division. 
We certainly had all the responsibility we could 
well exercise; and we had now a pretty solid and 
efficient corps, which we took pleasure in keeping 
up in discipline and character, and in as good spirits 
as possible. Near the end of the month notice 
came to us that we were to prepare to move and to 
start for Richmond on the 26. of May. 

It may be a trace of that curious paradox in the 
human heart which makes us love those who have 
been a care and trouble to us, that the thought of 
leaving these stricken and helpless people brought 
as much sorrow to some of us as the thought of 
going home did of joy. Indeed what is home in 
deepest truth, but the place where by our thought 
and toil and tender care we are able to promote the 
well-being of others? Is not that satisfaction love's 
best support and toil's best reward? We are made 
and meant to care. And where we have given of 
our best, even if unavailing, there the heart holds 
a certain treasure. There was here, too, a pleasant 

298 The Passing of the Armies 

counterpart of this sentiment when the people 
among whom we had exercised this autocratic 
power learned of our near departure. Our domina- 
tion had been but for a little while but our points 
of contact with the people had been many and 
close. And we had made our rule of conduct 
towards each other such as was befitting those who 
were to live together as fellow-citizens in peace and 
good will. 

On one of those last fair April mornings I 
received a formal visit from a deputation whose 
personal appearance, bearing, and manner wore a 
solemnity almost religious in suggestion, but be- 
tokening high character and sincere purpose. They 
announce themselves as a delegation appointed by 
the citizens of Dinwiddie County to tender me 
a public dinner in testimony of what they were 
pleased to characterize as judicious management 
and kindly spirit in dealing with the confused 
elements and powers of that difficult situation. 
While a certain incongruity between the spiritual 
motive and the material constituence of their 
proffer might be conducive to a smile, yet there 
were elements in its seriousness which commanded 
sentiments even deeper than respect. However 
much their approving feeling may have overpassed 
their material means of expression, the proffer 
sprang from generous and noble sentiments exer- 
cised under trying conditions and was a testimony 
which it was an honor to receive. Literal accept- 
ance of the compliment, however, was not to be 
thought of. But all the more my response should 

The Return of the Army 299 

show sincere appreciation and even more than 
common courtesy. "Gentlemen," I replied, "I 
deeply appreciate your expression of approval and 
good will in respect to my conduct of affairs. Your 
personal regard I fully reciprocate. But you must 
pardon me. I am aware of the conditions in your 
homes. Let me say then that if you have any sur- 
plus in your store of food to be disposed of, I beg 
you will give it to your own suffering people, and 
not to me. I confess to a certain pain in leaving 
you. I shall ever think of you with respect and af- 
fection, and not without solicitude. The preserva- 
tion of this Union is for the benefit of all its citizens ; 
and I trust will soon result in one of deeper effect 
in drawing our hearts together as never before. " 

They responded in words I shall not undertake 
to record. 

The order of march for May ist reversed the 
order of the division camps. Ay res was to start 
early in the morning, followed by the artillery and 
trains. On his reaching Black's and White's 
Crawford was to follow Ayres, and when the two 
reached my division I was to follow them, if they 
passed me. The corps would thus be gathering 
itself up as it marched. Moreover, by this order 
the whole corps would, so to speak, pass itself in 
review. It was a sort of "break from the left to 
march to the right." All these divisions did, 
however, that day was to reach my headquarters 
at Wilson's Station, where instead of having to 
break camp, I had the pleasure of receiving several 
honored guests, especially General Griffin. 

300 The Passing of the Armies 

At 5.30 on the morning of the 2d, I began to take 
up my troops and my part in the march ; the Third 
Division followed mine, then the headquarters 
train, the Second Division, the artillery, and the 
ambulances and general train. By night we had 
reached Sutherland's, seventeen miles from my left 
to my right, and the whole corps was massed. 
At six o'clock on the 3d the corps took up its 
march along the Cox Road towards Petersburg. 
That was an interesting and picturesque march. 
The successive breaking of camps, all seasonably to 
fall into the column in due order; the tents struck 
regiment by regiment, the little shelter-tents at will, 
the pieces folded up and packed in each man's 
knapsack; then at a bugle-note down go the officer's 
tents, with the funeral rosettes still on their gable- 
fronts, disappearing at a breath, as the dissolving 
of a dream; and the colimm comes out, colors 
draped in mourning, and the crape on arm and 
sword-hilt. It had a certain majesty of tone, — 
that returning army of august memories. A solemn 
march it was, — past so many fields from which 
visions arose linking life with the immortal. First 
past the Five Forks not far away, at the Ford 
Station where a month before we had forced 
back Fitzhugh Lee and caught the last train out 
of Petersburg under Confederate auspices; then 
Sutherland's, ten miles farther, which we were so 
strangely prevented from making our own on the 
31st of March, and where the gallant Miles two 
days afterwards made a maelstrom of the out- 
rushing currents of Lee's broken army; then pass- 

The Return of the Army 301 

ing the focal point where three roads crossing made 
a six-pointed star, behind Burgess' Mill, and the 
Quaker Road where my stubborn little First 
Brigade made the costly overture of the last 
campaign; then moving along that well-worn road 
between the Boydton Plank and the Appomattox 
so graven in our brain, so grave in history. All 
forsaken and silent now, the thundering salients 
and flaming crests since our Sixth and Ninth Corps 
and Gibbon with his men from the James burst 
over them in overwhelming wave. That silent, 
tipheaved earth, those hidden covered ways, — 
what did they speak of gloomy patience, and 
hardening fortitude and costly holding, — the far- 
stretching, dull red crests and trenches which 
splendid manhood, we thought mistaken, had 
made a wall of adamant against us during all the 
long, dreary, unavailing siege; and as we look 
across the farther edge, the grim bastions of Fort 
Mahone and Fort Sedgwick, — not unfitly named 
in soldier speech "Fort Hell" and "Fort Dam- 
nation," — ^the latter front carried a year before 
by the dark and desperate charge of my old 
veteran brigade; the forlorn Balaklava onset 
thereafter, and terrible repulse before the enemy's 
main entrenchments, — that darkest day of darkest 
year, 1864; and farther on, amidst the funereal 
pines, the spot where I was laid on boughs tearfully 
broken for what was thought my last bed, but 
where, too. Grant touched me with the accolade 
and woke new life. 

We passed also the gloomy remnants of the great 

302 The Passing of the Armies 

outworks — well known to us — where our com- 
rades of the Second, Sixth, and Ninth Corps and 
the Army of the James won imperishable fame by 
desperate valor; and farther on we passed with 
averted gaze the Crater of the Mine of fearful 

And now we enter Petersburg, filled with thoughts 
that fleck the sunshine; pondering the paradox of 
human loss which is gain, — not jubilant but firm- 
stepped, reverently, as treading over graves. 

Warren was in the city. He had alighted here, 
where with corps flag in hand he had passed like a 
meteor infantry and cavalry and leaped the rebel 
breastworks down into the faces of the astonished 
foe, and Sheridan sent him otherwhere. He was 
commanding this city now, — promotion down- 
ward; but down is up for half the world. Griffin 
could not pass him without fitting recognition ; the 
men of the Fifth Corps, who had seen him in their 
front from the beginning, could not pass him now, 
voiceless themselves as he. General Griffin had 
sent Warren word that the corps would like to give 
him the salute of honor as they marched through 
the city. He accepted, and placed himself with his 
wife and some members of his staff in the balcony 
of the Bolingbroke Hotel, while the corps passed 
before him in review. But the regulations for such 
ceremony were traversed by strange signs not 
written in that zodiac. Drums ruffled, bands 
played, colors dipped, officers saluted with their 
swords; but for the men it was impossible to hold 
the "carry," or keep the touch of elbow and the 

The Return of the Army 303 

guide right. Up turned the worn, bronzed faces; 
up went the poor old caps; out rang the cheers 
from manly hearts along the Fifth Corps column ; — • 
one half the numbers, old and new together, that 
on this very day a year ago mustered on the banks 
of the Rapidan, their youthful forms resplendent 
as the onlooking sun. One half the corps had gone, 
passing the death-streams of all Virginia's rivers; 
two hundred miles of furrowed earth and the 
infinite of heaven held each their own. Warren, 
too, had gone in spirit, never to rise, with deeper 
wound than any who had gone before. 

There was much to interest us in this city we had 
held "so near and yet so far"; long gazing or 
fitfully glancing at the hazard of otir lives, where it 
lay glistening in morning light or wrapped in sun- 
set splendor, or perchance shrouded in cannon- 
smoke, or lurid canopy of exploding mine, with 
phantasmagory human and superhuman. But we 
pressed through without stopping, and camped 
that night five or six miles out on the Richmond 

On the fourth we had a fine, smooth road before 
us, and marched briskly, having the right of way. 
We took a little nooning at Fort Darling on Drury's 
Bluff, and spent most of our time in admiring the 
strength and beauty of these works, proving the 
skill of the engineers, educated at our West Point, 
admiring still more the frankness of the strong 
soldier whose home was there, declaring that the 
appeal they had so resolutely taken was decided 
against them, and now there must be but one flag. 

304 The Passinpr of the Armies 

At evening we reached Manchester, a pleasant little 
town opposite Richmond where we closed up to be 
ready to pass through Richmond the next day in 
ceremonial order. But a heavy rain kept us rather 
quiet all day, except for some who with difficulty 
got permission to go over and visit the famed city 
which the newspapers had ordered us "on to" 
since 1861. Our camp made slender shelter, ex- 
pecting but the "tarry of a night." I had my 
headquarters in the front yard — not the house — 
of a courteous Virginia gentleman of the old school, 
who seemed to like my name, which if braced with 
an aristocratic y in the last syllable stood high he 
said in that section. Much might have happened 
if my ancestors had not prided themselves in 
straight lines and in not striking below the belt. 
So they held to the simple iota in writing out their 
long name. Therefore I could not claim honors 
and he waived the demand, offering a fresh mint 
julep to settle accounts, but this exception did not 
prove the rule. 

The Second Corps had now come by way of 
Amelia Court House and the Danville Road, and 
on the morning of the sixth we prepared to pass 
through Richmond. These two corps were all; the 
Ninth had been set loose again from our army and 
was sent to Alexandria; the Sixth had been sent 
back to the Danville Road to take care of the North 
Carolina communications. Our corps was formed 
in numerical order of divisions; this gave me the 
head of the column although the junior commander. 
The artillery followed the infantry. No other 

The Return of the Army 305 

wheeled vehicles were allowed in the column o 
review; but they were sent by another way, to 
rejoin the troops outside the city on the road to 
Hanover. We crossed the James on the upper 
pontoon bridge. This gave a glimpse of Libby and 
Belle Isle prisons, which I had always carefully 
instructed my men never to allow themselves to 
get into, but to prefer death, — by which desperate 
tactics they sometimes saved their lives, cutting 
their way out of capture like madmen. But these 
buildings carried heavy thoughts to some among 
us, which ministered to "silence in the ranks." 
Orders had been given to the Twenty-fourth Corps 
to pay us some attention; accordingly we passed 
in review along the front of that corps, — General 
Halleck and General Meade being in their line. 
These troops had instructions to present arms to 
every general officer by regiments in succession, 
and afterwards to stand at "order arms." We 
were about as threadbare a set of fellows as was 
not usually seen, to use the French idiom. But we 
were clean and straight. We bore ourselves with 
greatest military precision, — that was something 
we could do, — ^mostly out of pride. Looks go for a 
good deal, especially when you have a previous 
reputation to meet somehow or other. The 
Twenty-fourth Corps, paraded in our honor, gave 
us hearty greeting; quite transcending orders and 
regulations. We had not met since side by side 
we had double-quicked up to Sheridan's hard- 
pressed front at Appomattox Court House; and 
when their manual dropped from the "present" 

3o6 The Passing^ of the Armies 


to the "order, " there was a demonstration running 
along their line in which manly hearts took com- 
mand, the contagion of which disturbed our perfect 
military demeanor. 

It was a city of strange contrasts then; famous 
always for its beauty and the nobleness of its 
public buildings. But the incendiary had done 
much to mar the picture: the charred ruins our 
route of march could not wholly conceal telling 
either of desperate loyalty unwilling that so rich a 
trophy should fall into our hands; or else of some 
renegades, thinking all was lost, giving way to 
general disgust with all creation. The houses of 
Lee and of Davis received much attention, — the 
latter apparently already pillaged. The famous 
statue of Washington stood solitary in the square, 
seeming to rebuke somebody, — not us, we con- 
fidently believed. In the streets and dooryards 
all was confusion, like a grand "May moving- 
day" — fiu-niture scattered and piled as if having 
nowhere to go or stay; papers flying loose every- 
where; Confederate money cheap, — to be had 
almost for the asking from the ebony runners 
flashing their white teeth and eyes in joy of our 
coming. Multitudes of good citizens, however, 
lined the streets; while here and there some closed 
doors and shrouded windows showed where grief 
or bitterness was holding its despair. 

It was rather hard for our men to be held in such 
strict order, and, after passing in review, to be 
pushed on as if still in pursuit of Lee. Yet on we 
pressed, out through the fortifications of Richmond, 

The Return of the Army 307 

and not inward, whither we had so long striven; 
but now when we saw their terrible strength, we 
were not wholly sorry that we satisfied oiirselves 
with the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, and Cold 
Harbor, and took a wide sweep to the south- 
ern flank of those entrenchments rather than 
"fight it out on that line all summer." Out 
towards the old battlefields we drew, crossing the 
baleful Chickahominy and the unforgotten Toto- 
potomoy, scarcely pausing until ten o'clock at 
night, when we were halted, after a singularly hard 
march, at "Peake's Turn Out" on the Virginia 
Central Railroad, not far from Hanover Court 
House. This was familiar ground for the Fifth 
Corps. Here it was that our First Division in the 
ardor of its youth made the gallant fight three years 
before, and where especially our Second Maine 
under the chivalrous Roberts proved the quality 
of its soldiership and manhood. 

In the darkness of establishing bivouac, I heard 
some mutterings, as I had seen some sour looks 
before, among the men, seeming to hold me re- 
sponsible for the hardships of the twenty-mile 
forced march, because I had the head of the column 
and was supposed to set the pace. But they did not 
understand that our camps as well as our routes 
were strictly appointed as to time and place by 
orders from high headquarters. If I could have 
appointed the routes and hours of that homeward 
march, I would not have been governed so much 
by considerations of "the shortest distance between 
two points" on the earth, as of a line running 

3o8 The Passing of the Armies 

tortuously and deep-chambered through soldiers* 
hearts, and darkly graven in all the homes of the 
land. We had to pass very near many storied 
spots; and one day more for the whole march 
would have allowed our men the somber satisfac- 
tion of reviewing the fields of lost battles, which 
have their place, also, in making up life's full 
account. Broken threads are sometimes well 
worth picking up. If this is mere sentiment, I 
confess to it; outlawed I dare say in scientific 
circles, but not therefore banished from the make- 
up of manhood. If discipline means bracing the 
heart and will as well as the body it is part of good 
discipline to give the soldier satisfaction for his 
sacrifice, if only to see the ground where he 
fought in darkness and blind obedience, and gave 
his best even though in defeat, and perhaps, by 
such recognition, giving him part in the continuity 
of great endeavor. 

Other orders of being also share this halt at the 
bridge of life and death. I give place to a night- 
episode. At about midnight when the tired camp 
was still, the sentinel in front of my bivouac spoke 
nervously, saying there was something strange 
going on about my horse not far away in rear of us. 
He had been hastily tethered there amidst a little 
growth of scrubby pines, so near, and the place so 
quiet, there seemed to be no need of a guard. 
The boy who cared for him had dropped down near 
by in a swoon of sleep. I rose and went out myself ; 
and before I reached him my foot crushed through 
the breast-bones of a body half buried by the fallen 

The Return of the Army 309 

pine-cones and needles so long undisturbed, now 
gone back mostly ashes to ashes. I found that the 
horse, pawing the earth within the scope of his 
picket-rope, had rolled out two skulls and scattered 
the bones of bodies he had unearthed, and was gazing 
at the white skulls as if lost in doubt ; now and then 
snorting to call others to solve the mystery, or sway- 
ing at his tether as if to get away himself. It was 
a weird, uncanny scene: the straggling, uncom- 
panionable pines ; the night brooding still and chill ; 
black lowering clouds, now massing, now rifting, 
disclosing, then shutting out of sight, the white 
skulls mocking life. The horse was not easily paci- 
fied, — not until I had gathered up the menacing 
skulls and the outlying limbs too, and laid them 
where I saw glimmering amidst the dusky debris 
of the pines other bones as if adrift on a Sargasso 
sea, and showed him that I was not afraid. 

In the morning the men got to looking around 
among the bodies and relics, and by initials cut 
into the breast-plates or other marks or tokens 
identified the remnants of bodies of comrades long 
left among the missing. As we were not to move 
until ten o'clock, they asked permission to gather 
up these mournful remnants and pack them in the 
empty cracker-boxes in our supply trains, to be 
sent to friends who would gladly cherish even such 
tokens of the fate of the unreturning brave. I was 
glad to grant this and to instruct the wagoners to 
take especial care of these relics on the road or in 
camp. And so the strange column set forth bear- 
ing in its train that burden of unlost belongings, as 

3IO The Passing^ of the Armies 

Moses coming up out of Egypt through the wilder- 
ness of the Red Sea, bearing with him the bones of 
Joseph the well-beloved. 

Ayres led that day; we had the rear of the col- 
umn, with the artillery. Passing through Hanover 
Court House, and crossing the Pamunkey, we 
made twelve miles march and camped at Concord 
Church, not far from our battlefield of the North 
Anna and Jericho Mills. On the 8th, the Third 
Division led, the First following. We crossed the 
Mattapony and bivouacked at Milford, south of 
Bowling Green, at 5 p.m., having marched about 
fifteen miles. On the 9th, we moved at 7 a.m., 
passing through Bowling Green, which wakened 
for me thrilling reminiscences of a rear-guard fight, 
and crossing the Massaponax we encamped near 
Fredericksburg not far from our old battlefields of 
1862. We made this long march more easily 
because of the fine Bowling Green Pike that served 
us a good part of the way. Although we had 
marched twenty miles, some of the men of the 
First Division could not resist the opportunity to 
visit the storied Marye's Heights, up which they 
had charged, — the fifth line they had seen go on to 
be swallowed up in flame, and cut level with the 
earth the moment it reached the fatal crest before 
the stone wall, — and holding flat to earth, were able 
to be drawn off only under the blackness of a rainy 
midnight, the last to leave the front line, to catch 
the last pontoon bridge below the city just as it 
was swung to the safe shore. 

In the morning we crossed again the Rappahan- 

The Return of the Army 311 

nock — two years and a half later; and what years, 
and with what changes of men ! — and moved up 
abreast of the city, whose slopes on the morning 
of that other crossing we saw through misty eyes, 
trampled to gory mire, and so flecked with bodies 
of our comrades that the whole heights shone blue. 
The artillery leading and we in rear of the column, 
— thoughts lingering too, — we passed through our 
old camping ground of 1862, where first we learned 
how little we knew how to take care of ourselves or 
of those committed to our care, but where we 
learned also under the discipline of the accom- 
plished Ames how to behave ourselves in battle. 
Visions more than sad passed with us. Hooker 
and the Grand Divisions, and the grand reviews; 
the tournaments of the reorganized cavalry; the 
sword presentations with their afterglow; the 
"Ladies' Days" — Princess Salm-Salm the Val- 
kyrie, the witching Washington belles, strange new 
colors flying, sweet forms grouped around tent 
doors, lithe in the saddle ; days so bright and nights 
so silver toned, — lenesque sub noctem susurri, — 
where are you, forms and souls, men and women, 
where in these days of stern rejoicing triumph, 
but so forlorn? Then days of the Adversary: the 
Mud March; tragic Chancellorsville ; and dreary 
return to dull Stoneman's Switch and dolorous 
smallpox hospital — they, too, stood for something 
as prelude to the Gettysburg campaign. This is 
the procession that passes as we pass. Pensively 
we crossed the Aquia Creek, old debouchure from 
Washington of all that food for death, and of the 

312 The Passing of the Armies 

spectral gayeties of what is called life. Plunging 
now into lower levels we found a hard road to 
travel, and crossing the Choppawamsic and Quan- 
tico, we went down with the sun in dreary bivouac 
at Dumfries. 

The roads were bad; pressing feet and heavy 
hoofs and cutting wheels had made them worse. 
General Humphreys, following with the Second 
Corps, thoughtful ever for his men, and as an 
accomplished engineer scorning such crude con- 
ditions, sent out two entire divisions to repair the 
road before he would undertake to move, and 
even then was forced to take anotherroute. In 
our movement on this morning of the nth of 
May General Griffin leading out with the artillery 
sent the pioneers of the Third Division following 
to move with the artillery and help it along, while 
sending the pioneers of the First and Second Divi- 
sions to attend the trains which followed. One 
half the ambulances followed their respective 
divisions, and there was sore need of them. The 
memory of this day and night march will last its 
participants a lifetime, of which I have no doubt 
these experiences shortened many. The roads 
rough and ragged; the hills steep and as it were 
cross-furrowed; the valleys swamps; the track a 
trap of mire. We toiled painfully and patiently 
along, testing that formula of the chiefest virtue, — 
the charity that "beareth all things; belie veth all 
things; hopeth all things; endvireth all things." 
In the middle of the afternoon a heavy rainstorm 
swept over us, opening with terrific summons of 

The Return of the Army 313 

thunder and lightning, sky and earth meeting. 
I chanced to be at that moment on the summit of a 
very high hill, from which I could see the whole 
corps winding its caravan with dromedary pa- 
tience. The first lightning-bolt nearly stunned 
me. I saw its forerunner flashing along the cannon 
far ahead and illuminating Crawford's column 
with unearthly glare ; and turning quickly towards 
my own I could see the whole black column 
struggling on and Ayres a mile behind urging and 
cheering his men with condensed reserve energies 
all alive; when this ever-recurrent pulse of flame 
leaped along the writhing column like a river of 
fire. It looked to me as if the men had bayonets 
fixed, the points of intense light flew so sharp from 
the muzzles sloping above the shoulders. Sud- 
denly an explosion like a battery of shrapnel fell 
right between our divisions. An orderly came 
galloping up to me, with word that one of the 
ambulances was struck, killing the horses and the 
driver, and stunning the poor fellows who, unable 
to keep up with the rushing column, had sought 
this friendly aid. It was a mile away from me, but 
I knew Ayres close following would see the right 
thing done till my orders came. I sent instructions 
for the stricken men to be cared for, and for the 
following forage trains to take along the disabled 
ambulance. We were bringing along one dead 
body already, besides the strange freight of rescued 
fragments packed in the bread-boxes. This was 
the body of Lieutenant Wood, of the 20th Maine, 
killed in his tent by a careless wagoner's unau- 

314 The Passing of the Armies 

thorized discharge of a musket some way off the 
day before, — such an act as some call accident; I 
did not treat it as such. 

The storm and turmoil of the elements kept on all 
the afternoon; and all our company, man and 
beast, were drenched and sodden, — body and soul. 
In such plight we crossed the Occaquan, and in 
four hours more we "stopped for refreshments" 
on soggy ground and in pitchy darkness about 
a mile below Fairfax Station on the Orange & 
Alexandria Railroad. Then began the orgies of 
which five elements were the factors, the human, 
and air, earth, water, fire, — the last deemed 
divine in Grecian legend, but difficult to har- 
monize that night with Promethean will or human 

What cannot be helped must be borne. Well- 
doing is not a smooth road and its rewards do not 
instantly appear. But good heart, nevertheless ! 
Dear poor Tom Pinch knew all about it. " * Wher's 
the pudding?'" said Tom, "for he was cutting his 
jokes, Tom was." 

Why we were marched so hard and made to 
suffer such discomforts on that homeward journey 
no one of us could understand. Thoughtless men, 
as is usual, laid it to their officers; and that is 
perhaps not unjust as their short reasoning went. 
It is great part of an officer's duty to take care of 
his men. But there is always strong motive for 
officers to be reasonable; those who march with 
their men are not likely to be cruel to them. In 
the saddle hour upon hour, day after day, march- 

The Return of the Army 315 

ing Is almost as wearisome for rider as for footman. 
The balancing mental medicine for the rider is that 
he can get from point to point quicker, and get 
over more ground in a given time. Keeping pace 
with obstructed and slow-moving infantry is hard 
for the horsemen too. 

But here we were, marched as hard as if we were a 
forlorn hope, or a Lucknow relief, hurled in for 
life and death — only going to be mustered out. 
It was, I suppose, a measure of economy, to save 
the expense of maintaining an army not now 
actively engaged, and so far from the principal 
base of supplies, and to shorten the days before us 
for the final discharge. It seemed as if somebody 
was as anxious now to be rid of us as ever before 
to get us to the front. That is a fair inference 
from the orders that came to the commander of 
our army; and his orders were no doubt the result 
of this urgency. We commanders in the Fifth 
Corps had not so much to say about it as the men 
had; and what we did say is not written, and 
would have been of little avail for them if spoken 
aloud, and not calculated to put us in pleasant 
relations with those above us, including what 
Sterne would call "the recording angel." 

We moved once more at 9 o'clock on the morning 
of the 12th, the corps in the order of its divisions, 
followed by the artillery and trains. At Fairfax 
Coiu^t House we received orders to take the Colum- 
bia Pike and passing Falls Church Station to go 
into permanent camp on Arlington Heights. This 
brought us near the ground where our First 

3i6 The Passinor of the Armies 


Division, now comprising all that were left of the 
original Fifth Corps, had its station after the battle 
of Bull Run Second, and whence we started early 
in September for the Antietam campaign. A new 
procession of associations, farther reaching than 
those before, thronged our minds and spirits. 
We had not seen this ground since those earlier 
troubled days; and what had been given us to 
traverse since, and forms once with us, now taken 
away, all rose before us in tumultuous phantasies. 
Here was Lee's home, too; and we gazed at it 
earnestly, wondering if it was true only in poetry 

" That men may rise on stepping-stones 
Of their dead selves to higher things." 

Poor, great-hearted Lee; what was his place in the 
regenerated country? 

And for us: we were returning from our part in 
the redemption of the nation's life, — the vindica- 
tion of its honor and authority ; we were summoned 
to the capital to report the completion of this ser- 
vice and this trust; to lay down our arms and 
colors, emblems of costly sacrifice and great de- 
liverance; to receive thanks, perhaps; but for 
best reward the consciousness that what we had 
lost and what we had won had passed into the 
nation's peace; our service into her mastery, our 
worth into her well-being, our life into her life. 

Now the satisfied earth, returning its excess of 
rain heavenward in canopy of mists, overspread us 
with shadow, shutting us in with ourselves. But 
just as we reached the heights, the clouds with- 

The Return of the Army 317 

drew their veil, and the broad sunlight lay upon the 
resplendent city ; highest the dome of the delivered 
Capitol, and nearest, it seemed, the White House, 
home of Lincoln's mighty wrestle and immortal 
triumph. Around us some were welcoming with 
cheers; but for our part, weighted with thought, 
we went through our accustomed motions mechan- 
ically, in a great silence. The sun, transfiguring 
for a moment our closing ranks, went down in 
glorious promise for the morrow, — leaving us 
there to ourselves again, on the banks of the river 
whose name and fame we bore, flowing in darkness 
past us, as from dream to dream. 




ANY circumstances tended to make our 
camp on Arlington Heights an ideal one. 
We well knew that its material existence 
was to be brief; but its image in thought was to 
hold for us the traces of momentous history and 
to remain the most visible token of the probation 
under which our personal characters had been 
moulded. We took therefore a certain pride in 
this last encampment; we looked upon this as the 
graduation day of our Alma Mater. The disturb- 
ing incidents which had forbidden us ever to make 
a perfect camp were now overpassed, and it 
afforded some satisfaction to show that we had 
kept alive a scientific knowledge and skill we had 
never fairly put into practice, and cherished ideals 
of soldierly living, which though never projected 
on the earthly plane, may have somehow left an 
indwelling impress in our characters. 

There was now an abundance of camp equipage. 
Tents were distributed and established in accord- 
ance with ideal regulations. And the extensive 
preparations for final accounting and muster-out 


The Encampment 319 

justified an extra number of great hospital tents 
for crowding clerical work. These were a con- 
venience and incentive for social gatherings at 
hours so disposable. We had many visitors also, 
to whom we were glad to show civil and military 

To increase the magnitude and also the compli- 
cations of this gathering, Sherman's army came 
up on the 20th of May and encamped on the 
same side of the river but lower down towards 
Alexandria, — a situation not so conspicuous nor 
otherwise desirable as ours, a circumstance which 
had place in some further incidents of the field 
in the War for the Union. These troops were not 
the whole of Sherman's great Army of the West. 
The part of it which he brought here comprised 
many high names and titles, as well as stalwart 
men: the old Army of the Tennessee (once Mc- 
Pherson's, later Howard's, now under Logan), 
composed of the Fifteenth Corps, Hazen command- 
ing (Sherman's old corps), and the Seventeenth 
Corps under Blair, together with the Army of 
Georgia, commanded now by Slocum, composed 
of the Fourteenth Corps (part of Thomas' old 
Army of the Cumberland), now under Davis, and 
the Twentieth Corps under Mower, — this latter 
composed of the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps of 
the Army of the Potomac sent to Sherman after 
Gettysburg, with Howard and Slocum. That part 
of Sherman's old army known as the Army of the 
Ohio, now commanded by Schofield, and made up 
of the Twenty-third Corps under Cox and the 

320 The Passing of the Armies 

Tenth Corps under Terry, — of Fort Fisher fame, — 
was not brought to this encampment. 

The fame of these men excited our curiosity and 
wish to know them better. Although not much 
interchange of visiting was allowed, we started out 
with very pleasant relations, — which unfortunately 
not being very deep-rooted soon withered. Still 
we admired them at a distance, and had it in 
our own hands to keep up that kind of a friend- 
ship. I am speaking now for our men of the 
rank and file, whose good nature would stand a 
good deal. 

Within our own camp things were harmonious 
and more than that. The Second and Fifth Corps 
grew nearer and dearer to each other. One pleasing 
incident in my command may be worthy of record. 
The officers of my division desired to present to 
Major-General Griffin, our corps commander, a 
worthy token of the deep regard in which he was 
held in this division so honorably known as his in 
the last campaign, and with which he had been 
conspicuously associated since the heroic days of 
Fitz-John Porter. A Maltese cross was decided 
on as the basis for this memorial, and the design 
for it being entrusted to me by the committee in 
charge, was sent to Tiffany of New York for 
execution. It was our battle flag in miniature, — 
the Red Maltese cross on a white field, the colors 
enameled on a gold ground, the cross bordered 
with small diamonds, and in the center a diamond 
worth a thousand dollars. 

Orders were now out for the grand review of our 

The Encampment 321 

army on the 23d of May, and we decided to hold 
our presentation ceremonies on the evening before 
this, when so many old comrades and distinguished 
visitors were near by to join us. It is needless to 
say everything was ordered on a scale worthy of 
such occasion. Four large hospital tents were put 
together cathedral-like for our service, and clusters 
of smaller tents were grouped around, like chapels, 
to serve as offices and dressing-rooms. It had not 
the magnificence of array and grandeur of titled 
personages of the Field of the Cloth of Gold, but 
the sentiment and soul that animated the greeting 
and farewell were of a fellowship more than royal. 
Beauty and chivalry were not lacking; nobility of 
soul made high presence. Soft summer airs were 
stirring all things to tremulous pulse. The scene 
without enwrapped our senses, and that within 
thrilled our hearts. Soon through the trembling 
hush the martial bugle rang out the "Assembly of 
Tnmipeters. " Then flowed forth from a sym- 
phony of trumpets that orison of the setting sun, 
"The Retreat," with final cadence of the "Sun- 
set Gun, " answering afar. 

Now the shadows descended, and the deep stars, 
brooding close over the night, lent the immortal 
presence. Soon all the slopes glimmered with 
scores of thousands of lights illuminating great 
fields of white tents of our army and Sherman's 
far outspread, like the city of a dream. So atmo- 
sphered, guest-greetings lingered; new friendships 
grew "old"; farewells begun, — never to end. And 
when all the deep influences of the hour were at 

322 The Passing of the Armies 

their fullness, we drew within the canvas cathedral 
for our consummation. Here circled another 
scene, — bright, clear, and strong, — the presence 
of cherished womanhood shed a glory upon the 
stern faces and martial forms of men long lost to 
dreams like these. The great assembly hushed 
itself to silence in expectation. General Griffin 
was seated in the focus of all this; it was my part 
to present the material memorial. I had no ex- 
perience in public speaking, and felt hardly com- 
petent to express the feeling which then filled every 
heart of the assembly. But words like these were 
somehow given me: 

"General Griffin: 

" Our hearts stir as I speak the name, — so 
familiar, so revered; so interwoven with experi- 
ences deep as life and death. 

" The officers of your old division have desired to 
present you with a testimonial of their appreciation 
and esteem. They have selected for this purpose 
the badge of our division, — the Red Maltese 
Cross, — as the most fitting remembrance of your 
long association with them, — a memento of the 
toils and trials and desperate deeds and the suffer- 
ings you have not shunned to share with them, and 
a token of honorable service they are proud to 
share with you. 

" This cross of ours is already famed in story. 
Now it has a new history, — a new sanctity. Not 
more worthily was this the chosen emblem of those 
who thronged to redeem the Holy Sepulchre from 

The Encampment 323 

Infidel hands, than of these men of yours who have 
rallied to rescue a nation's life from assaults the 
more bitter because dealt by those we had deemed 
as brothers. On no breasts was this ever more 
bravely borne in battle — on no banners more 
proudly emblazoned — in no cathedral arches 
more sacredly enshrined. 

"But this is not the hour for words. The tongue 
cannot follow where the feet have trod, nor reach 
where the heart aspires. 

"It remains for me, therefore, to present you 
with this cross, in behalf of the officers of your 
old division who wait to greet you. But not all. 
Some who were with us, and would have been of 
the brightest to grace this festival, greet us here no 
more, — hearts warmest in friendship, truest to 
trust, bravest in the day of battle. We know and 
hallow the spots where they fell, first or last, in the 
ranks of honor. But not one of them all, — I say 
it before these witnesses, — not one of those is 
lying in his lowly bed to-day through any fault or 
failure or rashness of our commander. 

" In memory, then, of those, and in behalf of 
these, — in the name of all, — I give this cross into 
the hand of a soldier without reproach. It is red, — 
with blood more precious than its diamonds; red, 
— after the symbolism of sacred art, — with love 
more lasting than its stars. 

"In this day of the country's victory and peace, 
in this hour of sacred associations, we meet, and 
we part, under this cross, emblem of the world's 
dearest memories and most blessed hopes. Receive 

324 The Passing of the Armies 

it, therefore, with its legend and benediction: 
In hoc signo vincesy 

General Griffin received the badge, and holding 
it in his hand, responded : 


"Your words have overcome me with a sense 
of what it is to be thus honored by men who have 
added honor to this symbol. You remind me of 
what has been the cost of this fame, and what 
has been the value of this service. You yourself, 
General, a youthful subordinate when I first took 
command of this division, now through so many 
deep experiences risen to be its tested, trusted, and 
beloved commander, — you are an example of what 
experiences of loyalty and fortitude, of change and 
constancy, have marked the career of this honored 
division. I say to you all, that you have written 
a deathless page on the records of your country's 
history, and that yotir character and your valor 
have entered into her life for all the future. 

"For myself, having seen and served with you 
from the first, my affection for you is in the deepest 
places of my heart, and as often as I shall look 
upon this token in the coming years, I shall thank 
God for the manhood that has made it glorious." 

As he spoke these last words, I advanced and 
pinned the badge over his breast, and pressing his 
hand upon it he turned and bowed before the 
assembly. Then it was as if the slumbering chords 

The Encampment 325 

of thousands of hearts had challenged the song of 
the morning stars. First the low ripple of hand- 
clapping after common custom, but more were 
clasping each others' hands in emotion they knew 
not how to express. Strong men rose to their feet 
or bent their heads in sobs. But soon murmurs 
found voice, and this swelled to shouting until the 
band struck up its rhapsody, "Hail to the Chief," 
when all left their seats and crowded around Gen- 
eral Griffin, who for once was not able to give 
command, — even to himself. Slowly we broke 
into friendly groups, calming ourselves down in 
circling cadences of farewells until at a signal we 
drew together in the song of Auld Lang Syne, 
after which the heart-searching bugle-call "Lights 
Out " calling as from some far-away home dispersed 
us under the stars. 



IT was now the morning of May 23d, 1865, the 
day appointed for the final grand review of 
the Army of the Potomac, to extend from the 
Capitol to the White House along Pennsylvania 
Avenue in the city of Washington. It is with deep 
emotion that I attempt to tell the story of my last 
vision of that army, — the vision of its march out 
of momentous action into glorious dream. 

This is not an essay in composition — military, 
historic, or artistic. I seek to hold fast the image 
which passed before my eyes. But this will no 
less be truth, — one aspect of the truth, which in its 
manifold, magnificent wholeness would take the 
notes and memories of thousands to portray. It 
will be manifest that I cannot undertake to reduce 
all the features of the picture to a common scale, 
nor to exhibit merit equitably. Some points, no 
doubt, are set in high light, under the emotion 
which atmospheres them; but it is not meant to 
throw others into shadow. If, in so rapid and 
condensed a passage, only familiar and prominent 

commanders can be named, it is not that I forget 


The Last Review 327 

that in every grade and all through the ranks are 
men whose names deserve remembrance as im- 
mortal as their devotion was sublime. Neither 
can I forget, while yielding to none in my appreci- 
ation of the honor due to "the man behind the 
musket," that the military efficiency of such is 
largely affected by the instruction, discipline, and 
influence of those in authority and responsibility 
over them, and their success and fame largely 
due to the manner in which they are "handled." 
A command is likely to be what its commander is. 
There are crises when confidence in his ability 
turns the scale of battle. There are supreme 
moments when the sudden sweep to the front by a 
commanding character strikes the heart and exalts 
the spirit of men so that they do superhuman things. 
Such are the men who are to pass before us. 

It is the Army of the Potomac. After years of 
tragic history and dear-bought glories, gathering 
again on the banks of the river from which it took 
its departure and its name; an army yet the same 
in name, in form, in spirit, but the deep changes in 
its material elements telling its unspeakable vicissi- 
tudes; having kept the faith, having fought the 
good fight, now standing up to receive its benedic- 
tion and dismissal, and bid farewell to comradeship 
so strangely dear. 

We were encamped on Arlington Heights, op- 
posite the capital. As yet there were but two corps 
up — the Second and the Fifth. The Sixth had 
been sent back from Appomattox to Danville, to 
secure the fruits of the surrender, and stand to the 

328 The Passing of the Armies 

front before the falling curtain of the Confederacy. 
They had fulfilled that duty, and on this very day 
were setting forth for this final station. Of those 
that had come up, all the detachments had been 
called in. My division that left Appomattox 
five thousand strong now mustered twice that 
number. The ranks stood full — what there were 
of the living — for one more march together, one 
last look and long farewell. 

Troops that had been with us and part of us in 
days of need and days of glory, were brought with 
us again: the Cavalry Corps, and the Ninth Corps, 
with a division of the Nineteenth. The Ninth, by 
the circimistance of its commander outranking all 
other generals except Grant, although of late often 
with us, was not incorporated with our army until 
the twenty-fourth of May, 1864, when Burnside 
magnanimously waived his rank and with his 
corps became part and parcel of our army through 
the terrible campaign of that dark year, and until 
relieved at Burkeville a few days after the surrender 
at Appomattox. To these old companions General 
Meade with generous courtesy gave the post of 
honor and precedence. Sherman's great army 
had lately come up, and was encamped on the river 
bank at no great distance below. 

A mighty spectacle this: the men from far and 
wide, who with heroic constancy, through toils and 
sufferings and sacrifices that never can be told, 
had broken down the Rebellion, gathered to give 
their arms and colors and their history to the keep- 
ing of a delivered, regenerated nation. 

The Last Review 329 

For our review the order of march was to be the 
following: headquarters of the Army of the Po- 
tomac; the cavalry corps; the provost marshal's 
brigade; the engineer brigade; the Ninth Corps 
with a division of the Nineteenth; then the Army 
of the Potomac, that stood here upon the earth — 
the Fifth Corps and the Second; the infantry and 
artillery, and ambulances too — great sharers of 
eventful service. 

The Ninth Corps crossed the Potomac on the af- 
ternoon of the twenty-second and went into bivouac 
east of the Capitol. The engineer brigade, the pro- 
vost guard, and the escort moved to bivouac near 
Long Bridge, to start at 3.30 in the morning for their 
rendezvous at the foot of the Capitol front, ready to 
follow the cavalry ordered to be there at 9 A.M. At 
4 A.M., of the twenty- third, the Fifth Corps began 
its march over Long Bridge, Canal Bridge, and 
Maryland Avenue to First Street, East, moving 
"left in front," in order to draw out easily right in 
front, for the ceremonial column. The Second 
Corps, leaving camp at 7 a.m., followed the Fifth to 
the vicinity of the Capitol, ready to follow in review. 

The movement was to be up Pennsylvania 
Avenue. The formation was in column by com- 
panies closed in mass, with shortened intervals 
between regiments, brigades, and divisions; the 
company fronts equalized to twenty files each, so 
the number of companies corresponded to the total 
numbers of the regiment, some having twelve or 
fifteen companies, so many had gathered now for 
the grand muster-out. 

330 The Passing of the Armies 

Six ambulances were to follow each brigade, 
moving three abreast. The artillery brigades were 
to accompany their respective corps. The in- 
fantry were to take "route step" and right shoulder 
arms until reaching the State Department building, 
where they take the cadenced step and the shoulder 
arms, later known as the "carry." Here also the 
"guide left " was to be taken, as the reviewing stand 
was in front of the President's house. He was 
the proper reviewing officer ; but arrangements were 
made for the accommodation also of the Cabinet, 
the Foreign Diplomatic Corps, the governors of 
States, and other distinguished personages and 
high officials. In the salute, drums were to ruffle 
and colors dip, but only mounted officers were to 
salute. The bands were not to ttirn out in front of 
the reviewing officer, as is the custom in reviews. 
All precautions were taken to preserve relative 
distances, so as to avoid crowding, confusion, and 
delay in the marching column. 

In my command we were well aware of quite an 
anxiety among officers and men of the army gen- 
erally to look their very best, and more, too, on this 
occasion; for new uniforms, sashes, epaulettes, 
saddle housings, and other gay trappings almost 
disguised some of our hardiest veterans, who were 
not insensible to the new order of spectators before 
whom they were now to pass their ordeal. I hesi- 
tate to admit that in the revulsion from this on the 
part of the officers and men of my division, there 
might be a scornful pride more sinful than that of 
vanity. We knew many a dude in dress who ex- 

The Last Review 33 1 

pressed in this way a consciousness of personal 
worth which rang true in the tests of battle. We 
could not pretend to be better, — proud of our 
humility. Perhaps we thought we could not look 
equal to what we deemed our worth and possibly 
our reputation; so we resolved to do nothing for 
show, but to look just what we were, and be 
judged by what we wore, letting our plainness tell 
its own story. The men brought themselves up to 
regulation field inspection; themselves, their dress 
and accouterments clean and bright, but all of 
every-day identity. And for officers no useless 
trappings, rider or horse ; plain, open saddle, with 
folded gray army blanket underneath; light, open 
bridle with simple curb and snaffie-rein ; service 
uniform — shoulder-strap, belts, scabbards, boots, 
and spurs of the plainest, — no sashes, no epaulettes ; 
light marching order, just as in the field, but 
clean and trim. No doubt this might make us 
somewhat conspicuous, as things were; but home- 
liness was a character we thought we could main- 
tain, even "before company." 

It was a clear, bright morning, such as had so 
often ushered in quite other scenes than this. At 
nine o'clock the head of column moved. First 
Meade — commanding all — our old Fifth Corps 
commander, knightly in bearing as ever, grave of 
countenance now, thoughtful perhaps with fore- 
shadowings. With him rode his principal staff: 
chivalrous "Andy Webb," in earlier days familiar 
friend, inspector of our corps, — since that, meet- 
ing with his superb brigade the death-defying 

332 The Passing of the Armies 

valor of Pickett's charge, — now rightly chief-of- 
staff of the army ; grim old Hunt, chief of artillery, 
whose words were like his shot, whose thunder- 
sweeps had shaken hearts and hills from Antietam 
to Appomattox; Seth Williams, adjutant-general, 
steadfast as the rocky crests of Maine from which 
he came, whose level head had balanced the dis- 
turbances and straightened the confusions of 
campaigns and changes of commanders through 
our whole history. And following these heads of 
staff, all the gallant retinue well known to us 

Now move the cavalry: survivors and full- 
blown flower of the troopers Joe Hooker, in the 
travailing winter of 1862 and 1863, had redeemed 
from servitude as scattered orderlies and provost 
guards at headquarters and loose-governed cities, 
and transformed into a species of soldier not known 
since the flood-times of Persia, the Huns of Attila, 
or hordes of Tamerlane ; cavalry whose manoeuvres 
have no place in the tactics of modern Europe; 
rough-rider, raiders, scouts-in-force, cutting com- 
munications, sweeping around armies and leagues 
of entrenched lines in an enemy's country, — 
Stoneman and Pleasanton and Wilson, Kilpatrick, 
Custer, and alas! Dahlgren. 

And when the solid front of pitched battle op- 
poses, then terrible in edge and onset, as in the 
straight-drawn squadron charges at Brandy Sta- 
tion, the clattering sweep at Aldie, the heroic lone- 
hand in the lead at Gettysburg, holding back the 
battle till our splendid First Corps could surge 

The Last Review 333 

forward to meet its crested wave, and John Buford 
and John Reynolds could shake hands! Through 
the dark campaign of 1864, ever5rwhere giving 
account of themselves as there. At last in 1865, 
sweeping over the breastworks at Five Forks 
down upon the smoking cannon and serried bayo- 
nets; thence swirling around Sailor's Creek and 
High Bridge, and finally at Appomattox by incredi- 
ble marches circumventing Lee's flying column, 
and holding at bay Stonewall Jackson's old corps, 
with Hill's and Anderson's, under Gordon; — alone, 
this cavalry, until our infantry overtaking the 
horses, force the flag of truce to the front, and all is 
over! Fighters, firm, swift, superb, — cavalry — 
chivalry ! 

Sheridan is not here. He is down on the Rio 
Grande, — a surveyor, a draughtsman, getting 
ready to illustrate Seward's diplomatic message to 
Napoleon that a French army cannot force an 
Austrian Emperor on the Mexican Republic. 
Crook, so familiar to our army, is not here, pre- 
ferring an "engagement" elsewhere and otherwise; 
for love, too, bears honors to-day. Soldierly 
Merritt is at the head, well deserving of his place. 
Leading the divisions are Custer, Davies, and 
Devin, names known before and since in the lists 
of heroes. Following also, others whom we know : 
Gibbs, Wells, Pennington, Stagg of Michigan, 
Fitzhugh of New York, Brayton Ives of Con- 
necticut. Dashing Kilpatrick is far away. Grand 
Gregg we do not see; nor level-headed Smith, nor 
indomitable "Prin. " Cilley, with his ist Maine 

334 The Passing of the Armies 

Cavalry; these now sent to complete the peace 
around Petersburg. 

Now rides the provost marshal general, gallant 
George Macy of the 20th Massachusetts, his right 
arm symbolized by an empty sleeve pinned across 
his breast. 

Here the 2d Pennsylvania Cavalry, and stout 
remnants of the ist Massachusetts, reminding us 
of the days of Sargent and "Sam" Chamberlain. 
Here, too, the 3d and loth U. S. Infantry, experi- 
enced in stern duties. 

Now, with heads erect and steady eyes, marches 
the Signal Corps ; of those that beckoned us to the 
salvation of Round Top, and disclosed movements 
and preparations otherwise concealed in the dense 
maze and whirl of battle from the Wilderness to 
the Chickahominy ; then from their lofty observa- 
tories watching the long ferment on the Appo- 
mattox shores. What message do your signals 
waft us now? 

Here come the engineers with their great un- 
wieldy pontoons grotesque to the eye, grand to the 
thought! Had we not smiled at them — the huge 
dromedary caravans, struggling along the road, or 
sliding, leviathan-like, down the slopes of half- 
sheltered river-coves, launching out to their peril- 
ous, importunate calling? Did not the waters of 
all Virginia's rivers know of their bulk and burden? 
Had we not seen them — not smiling — time and time 
again, spanning the dark Rappahannock? — as in 
December, 1862, Sumner and Howard launched 
them from the exposed bank opposite Fredericks- 

The Last Review 335 

burg into the face of Lee's army — vainly opposing, 
■ — bridging the river of death, into the jaws of hell! 
Had we not a little later, a mile below, crowded 
over the hurriedly laid, still swaying, boat-bridge, 
raked and swept by the batteries on Marye's 
Heights, and rushed up the bloody, slippery slopes 
to the dead-line stone wall? And on the second 
midnight after, shall we forget that forlorn recross- 
ing, in murk and rain, on the last pontoon bridge 
left, and this muffled with earth to dull our stealthy, 
silent tread, and already half -loosened, and ready 
to cut free and swing from the touch of that fateful 
shore? And what of that rear-guard covering the 
retreat from Chancellorsville in 1863, seeking the 
bridge-end in utter blackness of darkness and 
driving storm of rain and rushing river, not finding 
it because the swelling torrent was roaring twenty 
feet between it and the shore ; and when gained by 
manly resolution or demoniac instinct, already half 
a ruin, the lashings of chess and rail loosened by 
rush and pressure of previous passers; crowded 
plank in heaps and gaps yard wide, amid the yawn- 
ing, dizzying surges in the pitchy blackness, where 
only the sagacious horse could smell the distances 
and leap the chasms, followed by the trusting 
"brotherhood" of man! "Great arks" indeed 
they were, these boats, borne above the waters of 
desolation, and bearing over manhood fit to re- 
plenish and repeople the war- whelmed earth! 

Last, looming above the broad waters of the 
James, your thread-like bridge swaying beneath 
the mighty tread, our horses hardly able to keep 

336 The Passing of the Armies 

their feet, bearing us over to the gloomy tests of 
Petersburg, the long beginning of the end. 

And where are the brave young feet that pressed 
your well-laid plank at Germanna and Ely's Ford 
of the Rapidan on that bright morning a summer 
ago? To what shores led that bridge? 

No, we do not smile to-day at the ungainly pon- 
toons! God rest their bodies now! if perchance 
they have no souls except what have gone into the 
men who bore them, and whom in turn they bore. 

Now rises to its place the tried and tested old 
Ninth Corps, once of Burnside and Reno, now led 
by Parke, peer of the best, with Willcox and Griffin 
of New Hampshire and Curtin leading its divisions, 
• — Potter still absent with cruel wounds, and 
Hartranft detached on high service elsewhere, — 
and its brigade commanders. General McLaughlen 
and Colonels Harriman, Ely, Carruth, Titus, 
McCalmon, and Matthews. These are the men of 
the North Carolina expedition, of Roanoke and 
New Berne, who came up in time of sore need to 
help our army at Manassas and Chantilly, and 
again at South Mountain and Antietam. After 
great service in the west, with us again in the 
terrible campaign of 1864; then in the restless, long- 
drawn, see-saw action on the Petersburg lines; 
through the direful "crater"; at last in the gallant 
onset on the enemy's flank and the pressing South- 
side pursuit ; — part of us until all was over. 

So they are ours, these men of the Ninth Corps, 
and our proud hearts yearn forward to them as they 
are whelmed in tumultuous greeting along the 

The Last Review 337 

thronging avenue. Noble men! As they move 
out past the head of our waiting column, I look at 
them with far-running thought. Earnestly re- 
membered by the older regiments of my division; 
for, sent to support the Ninth Corps at the Burnside 
Bridge when it was so gallantly carried at the 
bayonet point by Potter's 51st New York and 
Hartranft's 51st Pennsylvania, Burnside pushed 
across the Antietam our single division to replace 
that whole corps on those all-important heights 
where he was expecting a heavy attack. How full 
the intervening years have been! How strained 
and sifted the ranks! Of those two remembered 
regiments to-day, there stand: the 51st New York, 
one hundred and twenty men; the 51st Pennsyl- 
vania, forty men! 

Here, too, a remnant, the 36th Massachusetts, 
long ago shipmates with us of the 20th Maine on 
the transport that bore us forth in 1 862 to fields and 
fortunes far apart, now at last united again. We 
remember how that splendor of equipment and 
loftiness of bearing made us feel very green and 
humble, but we are somehow equalized now! 
Of them was Major Henry Burrage, now proudly 
riding, acting asistant adjutant-general of his 
brigade, — foretokening his place and part in the 
Loyal Legion of Maine! 

Here comes our 31st Maine, brave Daniel 
White's; consolidated with it now the 32d, those 
left from its short, sharp experience with Went- 
worth and John Marshall Brown, at such dear cost 
leading, — both Bowdoin boys, one the first adju- 

338 The Passino^ of the Armies 

tant of the 20th, Here passes steadily to the front 
as of yore the 7th Maine Battery, Twitchell, my 
late college friend, at the head: splendid reces- 
sional, for I saw it last in 1864 grimly bastioning 
the slopes above Rives' Salient, where darkness 
fell upon my eyes, and I thought to see no more. 

Following, in Dwight's Division of the Nine- 
teenth Corps, other brave men, known and dear: 
a battalion of the ist Maine Veterans, under 
Captain George Brown; the brigades of stalwart 
George Beal and clear-eyed "Jim" Fessenden, my 
college classmate; the sturdy 15th Maine from its 
eventful experiences of the Gulf under steadfast- 
hearted Isaac Dyer, Murray, and Frank Drew; 
soldierly Nye with the 29th, made veterans on the 
Red River and Shenandoah; royal Tom Hubbard, 
with his 30th, once Frank Fessenden's, whom 
Surgeon Seth Gordon saved; a third of them now 
of the old 13th, — these, too, of the Red River, 
Sabine Cross-Roads, and Grand Ecore, and thence 
to the Virginia valleys; rich in experiences, roman- 
tic and Roman! 

And now it is the Fifth Corps. The signal 
sounds. Who is that mounting there? Do you 
see him? It is Charles Griffin. How lightly he 
springs to the saddle. How easy he sits, straight 
and slender, chin advanced, eyes to the front, 
pictured against the sky! Well we know him. 
Clear of vision, sharp of speech, true of heart, clean 
to the center. Around him group the staff, pure- 
souled Fred Locke at their head. 

My bugle calls. Our horses know it. The staff 

The Last Review 339 

gather, — Colonel Spear, Major Fowler, Tom 
Chamberlain, my brave young brother, of the first. 
The flag of the First Division, the red cross on its 
battle-stained white, sways aloft; the hand of its 
young bearer trembling with his trust, more than 
on storm-swept fields. Now they move — all — 
ten thousand hearts knitted together. Up the 
avenue, into that vast arena, bright with color — 
flowers, garlands, ribbons, flags, and flecked with 
deeper tones. Windows, balconies, house-tops, 
high and far, thronged with rich-robed forms, 
flushed faces, earnest eyes. Now it seems a 
tumult of waters; we pass like the children of 
Israel walled by the friendly Red Sea. Around us 
and above, murmurs, lightnings, and thunders of 
greeting. The roar of welcome moves forward 
with our column. Those in the streetways press 
upon us; it almost needs the provost guard to 
clear our way. 

Now a girlish form, robed white as her spirit, 
presses close; modest, yet resolute, eyes fixed on 
her purpose. She reaches up towards me a wreath 
of rare flowers, close-braided, fit for viking's arm- 
ring, or victor's crown. How could I take it? 
Sword at the "carry" and left hand tasked, trying 
to curb my excited horse, stirred by the vastness, 
the tumult, the splendor of the scene. He had 
been thrice shot down under me; he had seen the 
great surrender. But this unaccustomed vision — 
he had never seen a woman coming so near before 
— moved him strangely. Was this the soft death- 
angel — did he think? — calling us again, as in other 

340 The Passing of the Armies 

days? For as often as she lifted the garland to the 
level of my hand, he sprang clear from earth — 
heavenwards, doubtless, — but was not heaven 
nearer just then? I managed to bring down his 
fore-feet close beside her, and dropped my sword- 
point almost to her feet, with a bow so low I could 
have touched her cheek. Was it the garland's 
breath or hers that floated to my lips? My horse 
trembled. I might have solved the mystery, 
could I have trusted him. But he would not trust 
me. All that was granted me was the Christian 
virtue of preferring another's good and passing 
the dangerous office of receiving this Mizpah token 
to the gallant young aide behind me. And I must 
add I did not see him again for some time! All 
this passed like a flash in act ; but it was not quite 
so brief in effect. From that time my horse was 
shy of girls — sharp eyes out for soft eyes — I dare 
say for his master's peace and safety! 

All the way up the Avenue a tumult of sound 
and motion. Around Griffin is a whirlpool, and 
far behind swells and rolls the generous acclaim. 
At the rise of ground near the Treasury a backward 
glance takes in the mighty spectacle: the broad 
Avenue for more than a mile solid full, and more, 
from wall to wall, from door to roof, with straining 
forms and outwelling hearts. In the midst, on- 
pressing that darker stream, with arms and colors 
resplendent in the noon-day sun, an army of 
tested manhood, clothed with power, crowned with 
glory, marching to its dissolution! 

At this turn of the Avenue, our bugle rings out the 

The Last Review 341 

signal: "Prepare for Review!" The bands strike 
the cadenced march; the troops take up the step; 
the lines straighten; the column rectifies dis- 
tances; the company fronts take perfect "dress," 
guide left, towards the side of the reviewing stand 
ahead, arms at the ceremonial "carry." 

All is steadiness, dignity, order now. We are 
to pass in final review. The culminating point is 
near; the end for us nearing; a far-borne vision 
broods upon our eyes; world-wide and years-long 
thought, — deep, silent, higher than joy! 

Still there is some marching more, in this re- 
strained, cadenced order. We approach the region 
of the public offices and higher residential quarter, 
welcomed by yet fairer forms and more finely 
balanced salutations. Ah! women sitting at the 
balconied windows, with straining eyes and hand- 
kerchiefs now waving, then suddenly, at some face 
seen, or not seen where once belonging, pressed 
to faces bowed and quivering. Some of you I 
have seen where the earth itself was trembling, 
beneath the greetings wherewith man meets man 
with wrath and wreck — you and those like you, 
for heaven, too, is wide, — searching under the 
battle smoke to find a lost face left to be unknown, 
bending to bind up a broken frame made in God's 
image, or skillfully, as divinely taught, fashioning 
the knot to check an artery's out-rushing life, 
nay, even pressing tender fingers over it till what 
you deemed better help could come; to catch a 
dying message, or breathe a passing prayer, or 
perchance no more than give a cup of water to men 

342 The Passing of the Armies 

now of God's "little ones," — so done unto his 

You in my soul I see, faithful watcher by my 
cotside long days and nights together through the 
delirium of mortal anguish, — steadfast, calm, and 
sweet as eternal love. We pass now quickly from 
each other's sight ; but I know full well that where 
beyond these passing scenes you shall be, there will 
be heaven! 

But now we come opposite the reviewing stand. 
Here are the President, his Cabinet, ambassadors 
and ministers of foreign lands, generals, governors, 
judges, high officers of the nation and the states. 
But we miss the deep, sad eyes of Lincoln coming 
to review us after each sore trial. Something is 
lacking to our hearts now, — even in this supreme 
hour. Already the simple, plain, almost thread- 
bare forms of the men of my division have come 
into view, and the President and his whole great 
company on the stand have risen and passed to 
the very front edge with gracious and generous 
recognition. I wheel my horse, lightly touching 
rein and spur to bring his proud head and battle- 
scarred neck to share the deep salutation of the 
sword. Then, riding past, I dismount at the 
President's invitation, and ascend the stand. 
Exchanging quick greetings, I join those at the 
front. All around I hear the miuraured exclama- 
tions: "This is Porter's old Division!" "This is 
the Fifth Corps!" "These are straight from Five 
Forks and Appomattox!" It seemed as if all 
remained standing while the whole corps passed. 

The Last Review 343 

Surely all of them arose as each brigade commander 
passed, and as some deep-dyed, riven color drooped 
in salutation ; and the throng on the stand did not 
diminish, although for more than three hours the 
steady march had held them before ours came to 

For me, while this division was passing, no other 
thing could lure my eyes away, whether looking on 
or through. These were my men, and those who 
followed were familiar and dear. They belonged 
to me, and I to them, by bonds birth cannot create 
nor death sever. More were passing here than the 
personages on the stand could see. But to me so 
seeing, what a review, how great, how far, how 
near ! It was as the morning of the resurrection ! 

The brigades to-day are commanded by General 
Pearson, General Gregory, and Colonel Edmunds, 
veterans of the corps. First is the Third Brigade, 
bearing the spirit and transformed substance of 
Porter' old division of Yorktown, and Morell's at 
Gaines' Mill and Malvern Hill. These are of the 
men I stood with at Antietam and Fredericksburg, 
and Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. Of that 
regiment — the 20th Maine — a third were left on 
the slopes of Round Top, and a third again in the 
Wilderness, at Spottsylvania, the North Anna, 
Cold Harbor, and the Chickahominy ; to-day min- 
gling in its ranks the remnants of the noble 2d 
and 1st Sharpshooters. Beside it still, the 11 8th 
Pennsylvania, sharing all its experiences from the 
day when these two young regiments took ordeal 
together in the floods of waters beneath and of 

344 The Passing of the Armies 

fiery death above in the testing passage of Shepards- 
town Ford in 1862. More Pennsylvania veterans 
yet, the storied 83d and 91st, and brilliant 155th 
Zouave, and the shadow of the stalwart 626., gone, 
and 2 1st Cavalry passed on. With these the ist 
and 1 6th Michigan, ever at the front, the keen- 
eyed 1st and 2d Sharpshooters and proud relics of 
the 4th, left from the wheat-field of Gettysbtirg. 
Here is the trusted, sorely-tried 32d Massachusetts, 
with unfaltering spirit and ranks made good from 
the best substance of the i8th, wakening heart-held 
visions. These names and numbers tell of the men 
who had opened all the fiery gateways of Virginia 
from the York River to the Chickahominy, and 
from the Rapidan to the Appomattox. 

Now Gregory's New York Brigade — the 187th, 
1 88th, and 189th, — young in order of number, but 
veteran in experience and honor; worthy of the 
list held yet in living memory, the 12th, 13th, 14th, 
17th, 25th, and 44th, — one by one gone before. 

One more brigade yet, of this division; of the 
tested last that shall be first: the splendid 185th 
New York, and fearless, clear-brained Sniper still 
at their head; the stalwart fourteen-company 
regiment, the 198th Pennsylvania, its gallant field 
officers gone: brave veteran Sickel fallen with 
shattered arm, and brilliant young Adjutant 
Maceuen shot dead, both within touch of my 
hand in the sharp rally on the Quaker Road; and 
Major Glen, since commanding, cut down on the 
height of valor, colors in hand, leading a charge I 
ordered in a moment of supreme need. Captain 

The Last Review 345 

John Stanton, lately made major, leads to-day. 
These also coming into the bloody field of the dark 
year 1864, but soon ranked with veterans and 
wreathed with honor: In the last campaign 
opening with the brilliant victory on the enemy's 
right flank; of the foremost in the cyclone sweep 
at Five Forks; and at Appomattox first of the 
infantry to receive the flag of truce which bespoke 
the end. Each of these brigades had been severally 
in my command; and now they were mine all 
together, as I was theirs. So has passed this First 
Division, — and with it, part of my soul. 

But now comes in sight a form before which the 
tumult of applause swells in mightier volume. It 
is Ayres, born soldier, self-commanding, nerve of 
iron, heart of gold, — a man to build on. What 
vicissitudes has he not seen since Gettysburg! Of 
those three splendid brigades which followed the 
white Maltese cross to the heights of Round Top, 
compact in spirit and discipline and power, only 
two regiments now hold their place, the 140th and 
146th New York, — and of these both colonels killed 
at the head of their heroes: O'Rorke at Gettysburg 
and Jenkins in the Wilderness. Where are the 
regulars, who since 1862 had been ever at our side, 
— the ten iron-hearted regiments that made that 
terrible charge down the north spur of Little Round 
Top into the seething furies at its base, and brought 
back not one-half of its deathless offering? Like 
Ayres it was — in spirit and in truth, — when asked 
at the Warren Court, years after, then reviewing 
the Five Forks battle, "Where were your regulars 

34^ The Passing of the Armies 

then?" to answer with bold lip qmvering, "Buried, 
sir, at Gettysburg ! " Whereat there was silence, — 
and something more. And of what were not then 
buried, fifteen hundred more were laid low beneath 
the flaming scythes of the Wilderness, Spottsyl- 
vania, and the other bloody fields of that campaign. 
And the Government, out of pride and pity, sent 
the shredded fragments of them to the peaceful 
forts in the islands of New York harbor, — left 
there to their thoughts of glory. ^ 

Their places had been taken by two brigades 
from the old First Corps, dearly experienced 
there: the thrice-honored Maryland Brigade, ist, 
4th, 7th, and 8th, in whose latest action I saw two 
of its brigade commanders shot down in quick 
succession ; and the gallant little Delaware Brigade, 
with its proud record of loyalty and fidelity, part of 
the country's best history. Brave Dennison and 
Gwyn, generals leading these two brigades to-day; 
both bearing their honors modestly, as their 
hardly healed wounds manfully 

Now the First Brigade: this of New York,— 
the superb 5th, 140th, and 146th, and the 15th 
Artillery, their equal in honor. At the head of 
this, on the fire-swept angle at Five Forks the high- 
hearted Fred Winthrop fell; then Grimshaw and 
Ayres himself led on to the first honors of that great 
day. At its head to-day rides the accomplished 

' The losses of the regulars must in honor be here recalled : 

At Gettysburg, 829; The Wilderness, 295 ; Spottsylvania, 420; North 

Anna, 44; Bethesda Church, 165; The Weldon Road, 480; Peebles' 

Farm, 76; a total of 2309. 

The Last Review 347 

General Joe Hayes, scarcely recovered from dan- 
gerous wounds. It was a hard place for brigade 
commanders — the Fifth Corps, in those "all sum- 
mer" battles — and for colonels too. 

So they pass, those that had come to take the 
place of the regulars; they pass into immortal 
history. Oh! good people smiling, applauding, 
tossing flowers, waving handkerchiefs from your 
lips with vicarious suggestion, — what forms do you 
see under that white cross, now also going its long 

But here comes the Third Division, with Craw- 
ford, of Fort Sumter fame; high gentleman, punc- 
tilious soldier, familiar to us all. Leading his 
brigades are the fine commanders, dauntless Mor- 
row, of the "Iron Brigade," erect above the scars 
of Gettysburg, the Wilderness, and Petersburg; 
resolute Baxter, and bold Dick Coulter, — veterans, 
marked, too, with wounds. Theirs is the blue 
cross, — speaking not of the azure heaven, but of 
the down-pressing battle smoke. And the men 
who in former days gave fame to that division, — 
the Pennsylvania Reserves of the Peninsula, An- 
tietam, and Gettysburg, with their strong ^^ esprit 
de corps ^' and splendor of service, — only the shadow 
of them now. But it is of sunset gold. 

Here draws near a moving spectacle indeed, the 
last of the dear old First Corps; thrice decimated 
at Gettysburg in action and passion heroic, martyr- 
like, sublime; then merged into the Fifth, proudly 
permitted to bear its old colors, and in the crimson 
campaign of 1 864 fought down to a division ; in the 

348 The Passing of the Armies 

last days the ancient spirit shining in the ranks 
where its scattered regiments are absorbed in other 
brigades, — shining still to-day ! But where are my 
splendid six regiments of them which made that 
resolute, forlorn-hope charge from the crest they 
had carried fitly named "Fort Hell," down past 
the spewing dragons of "Fort Damnation" into 
the miry, fiery pit before Rives' Salient of the dark 
June 1 8th? Two regiments of them, the 121st 
Pennsylvania, Colonel Warner, and 1426. Pennsyl- 
vania, Colonel Warren, alone I see in this passing 
pageant, — worn, thin, hostages of the mortal. I 
violate the courtesies of the august occasion. I 
give them salutation before the face of the review- 
ing officer — the President himself, — asking no 
permission, no forgiveness. 

Here, led by valiant Small, that i6th Maine, 
which under heroic Tilden held its appointed 
station on the fierce first day of Gettysburg, obed- 
ient to the laws, like Spartans, for their loyalty 
and honor's sake; cut through, cut down, swept 
over, scattered, captured; so that at dreary night- 
fall the hushed voices of only four officers and 
thirty-eight men answered the roll-call. With 
them the 94th New York, which under Colonel 
Adrian Root shared its fate and glory. 

And here are passing now those yet spared from 
earth and heaven of that "Iron Brigade," of 
Meredith's, on whose list appear such names as 
Lucius Falrchild, Henry Morrow, Rufus Dawes, 
and Samuel Williams, and such regiments as the 
19th Indiana, 24th Michigan, and 2d, 6th, and 7th 

The Last Review 349 

Wisconsin, which on the first day's front line with 
Buford and Reynolds, in that one fierce onset at 
Willoughby's Run, withstood overwhelming odds, 
with the loss of a thousand, a hundred and fifty- 
three of highest manliness ; that of the 24th Michi- 
gan largest of all, — three hundred and sixty-five, 
— eighty-one out of every hundred of that morning 
roll-call answering at evening, otherwhere. One 
passing form to-day holds every eye. Riding 
calmly at the head of the 7th Wisconsin is Hollon 
Richardson, who at Five Forks sprang to take on 
himself the death-blow struck at Warren as he 
leaped the flaming breastworks in the lurid sunset 
of his high career. 

Pass on, men, in garb and movement to some 
monotonous; pass on, men, modest and satisfied; 
those looking on know what you are ! 

And now, Wainwright, with the artillery of the 
corps, guns whose voices I should know among a 
hundred: ''D" of the Fifth Regular, ten-pounder 
guns, which Hazlett lifted to the craggy crest of 
Little Round Top, its old commander. Weed, 
supporting; whence having thundered again his 
law to a delivered people, God called them both to 
their reward. "L" of the ist Ohio, perched on 
the western slope, hurling defiance at deniers. I 
see not Martin of the 3d Massachusetts, whose 
iron plowed the gorge between Round Top and the 
Devil's Den. But "B " of the 4th Regular is here, 
which stood by me on the heart-bastioned hillock 
in the whirlwind of the Quaker Road. And here 
the 5th Massachusetts, which wrought miracles of 

350 The Passing of the Armies 

valor all the way from the Fifth Corps right, across 
the valley of death at Gettysburg, to the North 
Anna; where, planted in my very skirmish line, 
Phillips, erect on the gun-carriage, launched per- 
cussion into buildings full of sharpshooters picking 
off my best men. And where is Bigelow of the 9th 
Massachusetts, who on the exposed front fell back 
only with the recoil of his guns before the hordes 
swarming through the Peach Orchard, giving back 
shot, shrapnel, canister, rammer, pistol, and saber, 
until his battery — guns, limbers, horses, men — 
and he himself were a heap of mingled ruin? 
Which, also, a year after, with Mink's ist New 
York and Hart's 15th, came to support the charge 
at the ominous Fort Hell; whence Bigelow, with 
watchful eyes, sent his brave men down through 
hissing canister, and enfilading shell, and blinding 
turf and pebbles flying from the up-torn earth, 
to bring back my useless body from what else 
were its final front. 

Roar on, ye throngs around and far away; there 
are voices in my ear out-thundering yours! 

All along in the passing column I have exchanged 
glances with earnest, true-hearted surgeons, re- 
membered too well, but never too much loved and 
honored; with faithful chaplains, hospital attend- 
ants, and ambulance men, never to be forgotten, of 
the few who know something of the unrecorded 
scenes in the rear of a great battle. I have caught 
glances also from bright-eyed young staff officers 
who in the kaleidoscope changes of eventful years 
had been of my field family. Their look was some- 

The Last Review 35 1 

times confidential, as if slyly reminding me of the 
salutary discipline of camp, when they were turned 
out at reveille roll-call to "get acquainted with the 
men"; and after guard-mounting, the college men 
of them called up to demonstrate Euclid's ^^ pons 
asinorum" with their scabbards in the sand; and 
for those who were not men of Bowdoin or Amherst 
or Yale or Columbia, the test commuted to shiver- 
ing with pistol shot the musty hard-tack tossed in 
air, or at race-course gallop, spitting with saber- 
point the "Turk's head " of a junk of "condemned " 
pork on the commissary's hitching-post, or picking 
up a handkerchief from the ground, riding headlong 
at Tartar speed. Other pranks, of spontaneous 
and surreptitious discipline, when they thought it 
necessary to teach a green quartermaster how to 
ride, by deftly tucking dry pine cones under his 
saddle-cloth. You are ready to do it again, I see, 
you demure pretenders, or something the se- 
quence of this skill, more useful to your fellow-man! 
Have they all passed, — the Fifth Corps? Or will 
it ever pass? Am I left alone, or still with you all? 
You, of the thirteen young colonels, colleagues 
with me in the courts-martial and army schools of 
the winter camps of 1862: Vincent, of the 83d 
Pennsylvania, caught up in the fiery chariot from 
the heights of Round Top; O'Rorke, of the 140th 
New York, pressing to that glorious defense, swiftly 
called from the head of his regiment to serener 
heights; Jefifords, of the 4th Michigan, thrust 
through by bayonets as he snatched back his lost 
colors from the deadly reapers of the wheat-field; 

352 The Passing of the Armies 

Rice, of the 44th New York, crimsoning the har- 
rowed crests at Spottsylvania with his Hfe-blood, — 
his intense soul snatched far otherwhere than his 
last earthly thought — "Turn my face towards the 
enemy!"; Welch, of the i6th Michigan, first on 
the ramparts at Peebles' Farm, shouting "On, 
boys, and over!" and receiving from on high the 
same order for his own daring spirit; Prescott, of 
the 32d Massachusetts, who lay touching feet with 
me after mortal Petersburg of June i8th, under the 
midnight requiem of the somber pines, — I doomed 
of all to go, and bidding him stay, — but the weird 
winds were calling otherwise; Winthrop, of the 
1 2th Regulars, before Five Forks just risen from a 
guest-seat at my homely luncheon on a log, within 
a half hour shot dead in the fore-front of the 
whirling charge. These gone, — and of the rest: 
Varney, of the 2d Maine, worn down by prison 
cruelties, and returning, severely wounded in the 
head on the storm-swept slopes of Fredericksburg, 
and forced to resign the service; Hayes, of the i8th 
Massachusetts, cut down in the tangles of the Wil- 
derness; Gwyn, of the 11 8th Pennsylvania, also 
sorely wounded there; Herring, of the same regi- 
ment, with a leg off at Dabney's Mill; Webb, then 
of the corps staff, since, highly promoted, shot in 
his uplifted head, fronting his brigade to the leaden 
storm of Spottsylvania ; Locke, adjutant-general of 
the corps, — a bullet cutting from his very mouth 
the order he was giving on the flaming crests of 
Laurel Hill! 
You thirteen — seven, before the year was out — 

The Last Review 353 

shot dead at the head of your commands; of the 
rest, every one desperately wounded in the thick 
of battle ; I last of all, but here to-day, — with you, 
earthly or ethereal forms. 

"Waes Haeir' — across the rifts of vision — "Be 
Whole again. My Thirteen!" 

What draws near heralded by tumult of applause, 
but when well-recognized greeted with mingled 
murmurs of reverence? It is the old Second Corps 
— of Sumner and of Hancock, — led now by one no 
less honored and admired, — Humphreys, the ac- 
complished, heroic soldier, the noble and modest 
man. He rides a snow-white horse, followed by his 
well-proved staff, like-mounted, chief of them the 
brilliant Frank Walker, capable of higher things, 
and "Joe Smith," chief commissary, with a medal 
of honor for gallant service beyond duty, — a 
striking group, not less to the eye in color and 
composition, than to the mind in character. 
Above them is borne the corps badge, the clover- 
leaf, — peaceful token, but a triple mace to foes, — 
dear to thousands among the insignia of our army, 
as the shamrock to Ireland or rose and thistle of the 
British Empire. 

Here comes the First Division, that of Richard- 
son and Caldwell and Barlow and Miles; but at 
its head to-day we see not Miles, for he is just 
before ordered to Fortress Monroe to guard "Jeff 
Davis" and his friends, — President "Andy John- 
son" declaring he "wanted there a man who would 
not let his prisoners escape. " So Ramsay of New 

354 The Passing of the Armies 

Jersey is in command on this proud day. Its 
brigades are led by McDougal, Fraser, Nugent, and 
Mulholland — whereby you see the shamrock and 
thistle are not wanting even in our field. These 
are the men we saw at the sunken road at Antietam, 
the stone wall at Fredericksburg, the wheat-field 
at Gettysburg, the bloody angle at Spottsylvania, 
the swirling fight at Farmville, and in the pressing 
pursuit along the Appomattox before which Lee was 
forced to face to the rear and answer Grant's first 
summons to surrender. We know them well. So 
it seems do these thousands around. 

These pass, or rather do not pass, but abide 
with us; while crowd upon our full hearts the stal- 
wart columns of the Second Division — the division 
of the incisive Barlow, once of Sedgwick and 
Howard and Gibbon. These men bring thoughts 
of the terrible charge at the Dunker church at 
Antietam, and that still more terrible up Marye's 
Heights at Fredericksburg, and the check given 
to the desperate onset of Pickett and Pettigrew in 
the consummate hour of Gettysburg. We think, 
too, of the fiery mazes of the Wilderness, the death- 
blasts of Spottsylvania, and murderous Cold 
Harbor; but also of the brilliant fights at Sailor's 
Creek and Farmville, and all the splendid action 
to the victorious end. Here is the seasoned rem- 
nant of the "Corcoran Legion," the new brigade 
which, rushing into the terrors of Spottsylvania, 
halted a moment while its priest stood before the 
brave, bent heads and called down benediction. 

Webb's Brigade of the Wilderness is commanded 

The Last Review 355 

to-day by Olmstead; the second, by Mclvor — ■ 
veteran colonels from New York; the third by 
Colonel Woodall of Delaware. This brigade knows 
the meaning of that colorless phrase, "the casual- 
ties of the service," showing the ever shifting 
elements which enter into what we call identity. 
Here are all that is left of French's old division at 
Antietam, and Hays' at Gettysburg, who was 
killed in the Wilderness, Carroll's Brigade at Spott- 
sylvania, where he was severely wounded ; Smyth's 
at Cold Harbor, killed at Farmville. Into this 
brigade Owen's, too, is now merged. They are a 
museum of history. 

Here passes, led by staunch Spaulding, the ster- 
ling 19th Maine, once gallant Heath's, conspicuous 
everywhere, from the death-strewn flank of Pick- 
ett's charge, through all the terrible scenes of 
"Grant's campaign," to its consummation at 
Appomattox. In its ranks now are the survivors 
of the old Spartan 4th, out of the "Devil's Den," 
where Longstreet knew them. 

Heads uncover while passes what answers the 
earthly roll-call of the immortal 5th New Hamp- 
shire, famed on the stubborn Third Corps front 
at Gettysburg, where its high-hearted Colonel 
Cross fell leading the brigade, — among the foremost 
in the sad glory of its losses, two hundred and 
ninety-five men having been killed in its ranks. 

What is that passing now, the center of all eyes, 
— that little band so firmly poised and featured 
they seem to belong elsewhere? This is what was 
the 1st Minnesota, sometimes spoken of, for 

356 The Passing of the Armies 

valid reasons, as the ist Maine; more deeply 
known as of Gettysburg, where in the desperate 
counter-charge to stay an overwhelming onset, 
they left eighty- three men out of every hundred! 
With ever lessening ranks but place unchanged at 
the head of its brigade from Bull Run to Appomat- 
tox, to-day a modest remnant. Colonel Hausdorf 
proudly leads on its last march the ist Minnesota. 

What wonder that, as such men pass, the out- 
poured greetings take on a strangely mingled tone. 
You could not say from what world they come, or 
to what world they go. Not without deep throb- 
bings under our breath, — ours who in heart belong 
to them, — as if answering some far-off drum-beat 
"assembly" summons. 

But now comes on with veteran pride and far- 
preceding heralding of acclaim, the division which 
knows something of the transmigration of souls: 
having lived and moved in different bodies and 
under different names; knowing, too, the tests of 
manhood, and the fate of suffering and sacrifice, 
but knowing most of all the undying spirit which 
holds fast its loyalty and faces ever forward. 
This is the division of Mott, himself commanding 
to-day, although severely wounded at Hatcher's 
Run on the sixth of April last. These are all that 
are left of the old commands of Hooker and Kearny, 
and later, of our noble Berry, of Sickles' Third 
Corps. They still wear the proud " Kearny patch " 
— the red diamond. Birney's Division, too, has 
been consolidated with Mott's, and the brigades are 
now commanded by the chivalrous De Trobriand 

The Last Review 357 

and the sterHng soldiers, Pierce of Michigan and 
McAllister of New Jersey. Their division flag now 
bears the mingled symbols of the two corps, the 
Second and Third, — the diamond and the trefoil. 

Over them far floats the mirage-like vision of 
them on the Peninsula, and then at Bristow, Man- 
assas, and Chantilly, and again the solid substance 
of them at Chancellors ville, and on the stormy 
front from the Plumb Run gorge to the ghastly 
Peach Orchard, where the earth shone red with the 
bright facings of their brave Zouaves thick-strewn 
amidst the blue, as we looked down from smoking 
Round Top. Then in the consolidation for the 
final trial bringing the prestige and spirit and 
loyalty of their old corps into the Second, — making 
this the strongest corps in the army, — adding their 
splendid valor to the fame of this in which they 
merged their name. 

Now come those heavy artillery regiments which 
the exigencies of the service drew suddenly to 
unexpected and unfamiliar duty, striking the fight 
at its hottest in the cauldron of Spottsylvania, and, 
obeying orders literally, suffered loss beyond all 
others there: the ist Massachusetts losing three 
hundred, and the ist Maine four hundred and 
eighty-one officers and men in that single action. 
This same ist Maine, afterwards in the rashly- 
bidden charge at Petersburg, June 18, 1864, added 
to its immortal roll six hundred and thirty-two 
lost in that futile assault. Proudly rides Russell 
Shepherd at their head, — leaving the command of a 
brigade to lead these men to-day. Deep emotions 

35^ The Passing of the Armies 

stir at the presence of such survivors, — cherishing 
the same devotion and deserving the same honor 
as those who fell. 

Here passes the high -borne, steadfast-hearted 
17th Maine from the seething whirlpool of the 
wheat-field of Gettysburg to the truce-compelling 
flags of Appomattox. To-day its ranks are hon- 
ored and spirit strengthened by the accession of 
the famous old 3d Regiment, — that was Howard's. 
Some impress remains of firm-hearted Roberts, 
brave Charley Merrill, keen-edged West, and 
sturdy William Hobson; but Charley Mattocks is 
in command in these days, — a man and a soldier, 
with the unspoiled heart of a boy. Three of these, 
college mates of mine. What far dreams drift 
over the spirit, of the days when we questioned 
what life should be, and answered for ourselves 
what we would be! 

Now passes the artillery, guns all dear to us; 
but we have seen no more of some, familiar and 
more dear: Hall's 2d Maine, that was on the cav- 
alry front on the first day of Gettsyburg, grand in 
retreat as in action, afterwards knowing retreat 
only in sunset bugle-call; Stevens' 5th Maine, 
that tore through the turmoil of that tragic day, 
and gave the Louisiana "Tigers" another cemetery 
than that they sought on the storied hill; roaring 
its way through the darkness of 1864, holding all 
its ancient glory. Most of the rest we knew had 
gone to the "reserve." 

The pageant has passed. The day is over. But 
we linger, loath to think we shall see them no more 

The Last Review 359 

together, — these men, these horses, these colors 
afield. Hastily they have swept to the front as of 
yore ; crossing again once more the long bridge and 
swaying pontoons, they are on the Virginia shore, 
waiting, as they before had sought, the day of the 
great return. 

We were to have one great day more. The Sixth 
Corps had come up from its final service of perfect- 
ing the surrender, and on this bright morning of 
June 8th was to be held in review by honoring 
thought and admiring eyes. We who had passed 
our review were now invited spectators of this. 
But there was something more. Something the 
best in us would be passed in review to-day. 

The military prestige of this corps was great, and 
its reputation was enhanced by Sheridan's late 
preference, well-known. The city, too, had its 
special reasons for regard. The Sixth Corps had 
come up from its proud place in the battle lines in 
days of fear and peril, to save Washington. Be- 
sides, this corps was part of the great Army of the 

The President and all the dignitaries were on the 
reviewing stand as before. Multitudes were filling 
the streets, and the houses bloomed their welcome 
from basement to summit. The ordering was 
much as before. Column of companies; files 
equalized. Space now permits some features of a 
regular review. Instead of close order, the column 
moves at wheeling distance of its subdivisions; 
all commissioned officers salute; division and bri- 

360 The Passing of the Armies 

gade commanders after passing the reviewing 
stand, turn out and join the reviewing officer; the 
bands also at this point wheel out and continue 
playing while their brigade is passing. The am- 
bulances, engineers, and artillery follow as before. 

The symbol of the flag of this corps is the Greek 
cross — the "square" cross, of equal arms. Sym- 
bol of terrible history in old-world conflicts — 
Russian and Cossack and Pole; token now of 
square fighting, square dealing, and loyalty to the 
flag of the union of freedom and law. 

These are survivors of the men in early days with 
Franklin and Smith and Slocum and Newton. 
Later, and as we know them best, the men of Sedg- 
wick; but alas, Sedgwick leads no more, except 
in spirit! Unheeding self he fell smitten by a 
sharpshooter's bullet, in the midst of his corps. 
Wright is commanding since, and to-day, his 
chief-of-staff, judicial Martin McMahon. These 
are the men of Antietam and the twice wrought 
marvels of courage at Fredericksburg, and the long 
tragedy of Grant's campaign of 1864; then in the 
valley of the Shenandoah with Sheridan in his rally- 
ing ride, and in the last campaign storming the 
works of Petersburg — losing eleven hundred men 
in fifteen minutes; masters at Sailor's Creek, four 
days after, taking six thousand prisoners, with 
Ewell and five of his best generals, — of them the 
redoubtable Kershaw ; in the van in the pursuit of 
Lee, and with the Second Corps pressing him to a 
last stand, out of which came the first message of 

The Last Review 361 

First comes the division of Wheaton ; at its head, 
under Penrose, the heroic New Jersey Brigade which 
at the Wilderness and Spottsylvania lost a thou- 
sand one hundred and forty-three officers and men. 
Next, and out of like experiences, the brigades of 
Edwards and Hamblen, representing the valor of 
Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Penn- 
sylvania, and Wisconsin. 

Now passes Getty's Division. Leading is War- 
ner's Brigade, from its great record of the Wilder- 
ness, Spottsylvania, and Cold Harbor; then the 
magnificent First Vermont Brigade, under that 
sterling soldier. General Lewis Grant; as their 
proud heads pass, we think of the thousand six 
hundred and forty-five laid low at the Salient 
of Spottsylvania. Now we think we see the 
shadow of that "Light Division" with Burnham 
storming Marye's Heights in the Chancellors- 
ville campaign of 1863. For here, last, is the 
Third Brigade, once of Neil and Bidwell, with 
the fame of its brave work all through Grant's 
campaign, led now by Sumner's ist Maine Vet- 
erans, of which it is enough to say it is made up 
of the old 5th, and 6th, and 7th Maine, — the hearts 
of Edwards and Harris and Connor still beating 
in them. Can history connote or denote anything 
nobler in manliness and soldiership, than has been 
made good by these? Commanding is the young 
general, Tom Hyde, favorite in all the army, prince 
of staff officers, gallant commander, alert of sense, 
level of head, sweet of soul. 

The infantry column is closed by Ricketts' 

362 The Passing of the Armies 

Division, its brigades commanded by Tnieman 
Seymour and Warren Keifer, names known be- 
fore and since. These men too, knowing what 
was done and suffered — shall we say in vain? — 
in that month under fire from the Wilderness to 
Cold Harbor; in these two battles losing out of 
their firm-held ranks a thousand eight hundred and 
twenty-five men; knowing also of the valley of 
the Shenandoah and the weary windings of the 
Appomattox. Of the heart of the country, these 
men: Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, 
Pennsylvania, Maryland. These twelve regiments 
were to close that grand procession of muskets, 
tokens of a nation's mighty deliverance, now to be 
laid down ; tokens also of consummate loyalty and 
the high manhood that seeks not self but the larger, 
deeper well-being which explains and justifies 
personal experience. 

Now follows the artillery brigade, under Major 
Cowan; eight batteries representing all the varie- 
ties of that field service, and the contributions of 
Rhode Island, Vermont, New York, and New 
Jersey, and the regulars. What story of splendors 
and of terrors do these grim guns enshrine ! 

Now, last of all, led by Major van Brocklin, the 
little phalanx of the 50th New York Engineers, 
which had been left to help the Sixth Corps, pass 
once more the turbid rivers of Virginia. Here 
again, the train of uncouth pontoons, telling of the 
mastery over the waters as of the land. This last 
solemn passage now, waking memories of dark 
going and dark returning, deep slumbering in our 

The Last Review 363 

souls. Thanks and blessing, homely pontoons! 
Would to God we had a bridge so sure, to bear us 
over other dark waters — out of the pain — into the 
Peace ! 

Home again. Sixth Corps ! Home to your place 
in our hearts! Encamp beside us once more; as 
for so long we have made sunshine for each others' 
eyes, and watched with hushed voices guarding 
their rest; and wakened to the same thrilling call, 
guided on each other through maze of darkness to 
fronts of storm and over walls of flame ! 

Sit down again, Sixth Corps! with the Fifth and 
Second, holding dear to thought the soul and sym- 
bol of the vanished First and Third. Sit down again 
together. Army of the Potomac! all that are left of 
us, — on the banks of the river whose name we bore, 
into which we have put new meaning of our own. 
Take strength from one more touch, ere we pass 
afar from the closeness of old. The old is young 
to-day; and the young is passed. Survivors of the 
fittest, — for the fittest, it seems to us, abide in the 
glory where we saw them last, — take the grasp of 
hands, and look into the eyes, without words! 
Who shall tell what is past and what survives? 
For there are things born but lately in the years, 
which belong to the eternities. 



THE day after the review of our Second and 
Fifth Corps of the Army of the Potomac 
was appointed for a review on the same 
ground of Sherman's famous Army of the West. 
A feeling of comradeship and admiration rather 
than anything of jealousy or disposition for invid- 
ious comparison took many of us over to witness 
that grand spectacle. It was well worth a day's 
devotion to see the men who had fought those 
tremendous battles of the West and had marched 
nearly two thousand miles, cutting through the 
midst of an enemy's country with such demonstra- 
tion of power that all obstacles fled before them. 
And our admiration of the brilliant soldier who had 
the ability to plan and the resolution to execute 
a movement so masterly in strategy and tactics 
lent a certain awe to our emotion. 

The preparations for the review and the forma- 
tion of the column were much as they were for the 
Army of the Potomac. The sky was wonderfully 
beautiful and the earth gave good greeting under 
foot. As before, the streets were lined and thronged 


Sherman's Army 3^5 

with people, and the houses and especially the 
stands in the vicinity of the President's House 
were even more crowded than the day before. 
The prestige of this army that had marched from 
the Great River to the Sea, and thence up half the 
Atlantic coast, bringing the fame of mighty things 
done afar, stirred perhaps more the hearts and 
imaginations of the people than did the familiar 
spectacle of men whose doings and non-doings had 
been an e very-day talk, and who so often had 
walked their streets in hurrying ranks or pitiful 
forlornness and thronged their hospitals, year 
after year, in service and suffering, unboastful and 
uncomplaining. But not a craven thought was in 
our spirits because these that came after us were 
preferred before us. We rejoiced in the recognition 
given them and led in the applause. 

Down the avenue poured the shining river of 
steel, gay with colors and rippling with cascades of 
mounted staff and burnished cannon. At the head 
proud, stern Sherman, who with thoughtful kind- 
ness had brought brave Howard, now ordered to 
other important duty, to ride by his side in this 
pageant. Following next is swarthy John Logan, 
leading the Army of the Tennessee, and Hazen with 
the Fifteenth Corps. Each division is preceded 
by its corps of black pioneers, shining like polished 
ebony, armed with pick and spade, proud of their 
perfect alignment, keeping step to the music with 
inborn stress. Significant frontispiece. Almost 
equally interesting was the corps of foragers, 
familiarly known as Sherman's "bummers, " follow- 

366 The Passing of the Armies 

ing each brigade. These were characteristic repre- 
sentatives of the career of that army, and they 
tried to appear as nearly as possible like what they 
were in that peculiar kind of service. Their dress, 
and free and easy bearing, as well as their pack- 
mules and horses with rope bridles, laden with such 
stores as they had gathered from the country 
through which they passed, was a remarkable 
feature in a military review. 

We were told that General Sherman witnessing 
our review had told his leading commanders that 
our military appearance and even marching could 
not be surpassed or even equalled by their own 
men, and it was resolved that they would not make 
the attempt to rival us in this regard but would 
appear as nearly as possible as they looked while 
"marching through Georgia. " But they did both. 
As was to be expected, their marching was superb, 
both steady and free, not as if forced for the 
occasion, but by habit or second nature : distances 
maintained; lines perfectly "dressed" on the 
"guide left"; eyes steady to the front. 

Further evidence of the liberality of their 
commanders in yielding something to the spirit of 
liberty, or at least to the instinct so significantly 
planted in man to establish relations with the 
kingdoms or subjects of nature supposed to be 
below him, appeared in the tokens of personal 
freedom allowed the men in the midst of their 
military discipline and the formalities of this 
occasion. The monotony of these formalities was 
strangely relieved by what seemed to us Army of 

Sherman's Army 367 

the Potomac men hazardous breach of discipHne. 
A comical medley of pets had their part in the 
parade and the applause: in one of the regiments 
an eagle borne on a perch beside the colors; in 
others, a cat, or a coon, favorably mounted for 
reciprocal inspection, as well as the pack-mules, 
laden, as was their wont, with stores, — but mostly 
quite a variation upon those issued by the com- 
missary or quartermaster, symbols of extin- 
guished domestic dynasties, and lost civilizations. 
In another place, a genre picture of the farmyard : 
milch-cows, ponies, goats, and figuring proudly 
in the center Chanticleer, loudly defying his mates, 
— no longer rivals, — responding lustily from some 
corresponding elevation, whether allies or aliens. 
As a climax, with significance which one might 
ponder, whole families of freed slaves, as servants, 
trustfully leading their little ones, obedient to fate, 
silent, without sign of joy; more touching in some 
ways than the proud passing column; more touch- 
ing in some deep ways than the spectacle of captive 
kings led in the triumph of imperial Rome. 

So pass in due order of precedence all the corps 
of that historic army, — the men of Shiloh, of 
Corinth, of Vicksburg, of Missionary Ridge, of 
Chattanooga, Chickamauga, and Altoona. We 
cannot name them familiarly, but we accord them 

And now comes a corps which we of the Army of 
the Potomac may be pardoned for looking on with 
peculiar interest. It is the Twentieth Corps, led 
by Mower, the consolidation of our old Eleventh 

368 The Passing of the Armies 

and Twelfth (Howard's and Slocum's), reduced 
now to scarcely more than two divisions, those of 
Williams and Geary. We recognize regiments that 
had last been with us on the hard-pressed right 
wing at Gettysburg: the 26. Massachusetts; 5th 
and 20th Connecticut; 6oth, I02d, 107th, 123d, 
137th, 149th, 150th New York; the 13th New Jer- 
sey; the nth, 28th, 109th, 147th Pennsylvania; 
the 5th, 29th, 6 1st, 66th, 82d Ohio; and the 3d 
Wisconsin. We also gladly see the 33d Massa- 
chusetts, with the gentle and chivalrous Under- 
wood. Leading one of the brigades we recognize 
the manly Coggswell of Massachusetts. These were 
the men with Hooker on Lookout Mountain, in 
"the battle above the clouds," whither also their 
fame has risen. Not cloyed nor stinted is the 
greeting we give to these returning men, — for 
them, as for those that have passed on. Strong is 
the brotherhood of a common experience, — the 
kinship of a new birth to the broader life of a 
regenerated country. 

And now the shadows draw around us; for the 
long summer day is scarcely long enough for the 
mighty march of these far-marched men. General 
Sherman has told us he mustered in these armies 
when last gathered more than fifty-seven thousand 
men. Well might the passing of so many fill all 
the hours since the well advanced morning of the 

The shadows deepen. It has passed, — the 
splendid pageant; it is gone forever, — the magnifi- 
cent host that streamed from the mountains to the 

Sherman's Army 369 

sea; that flaming bolt which cut the Confederacy 
in two, — or shall we say that left its deep track 
upon the earth to mark the dark memories of those 
years; or to shine forever as a token of saving 
grace in the galaxy of the midnight sky? 

The same high personages were on the reviewing 
stand with the President as on the day before, — a 
distinguished and august company. As General 
Sherman with Howard and Logan after saluting 
at the head of the column mounted the reviewing 
stand and exchanged warm greetings with all, 
Sherman took pains to make it manifest that he 
refused to take Stanton's offered hand. This was 
surprising to many, but those of us who while 
encamped along the Southside Railroad after Lee's 
surrender had occasion to know about the circum- 
stances attending Sherman's negotiations with 
Johnston for surrender, could not wonder at it. 
When Sherman, supposing he was acting in accord- 
ance with the policy of the government as he had 
understood it from Lincoln, made terms for the 
surrender of Johnston's army, involving matters 
pertaining to the political status of the Southern 
people and a policy of reconstruction, — undoubt- 
edly therein exceeding any prerogatives of a mili- 
tary commander, — the President disapproved of 
them and gave directions for hostilities to be re- 
sumed. But in carrying these into effect, Secretary 
Stanton took an equally unwarrantable course in 
his orders to Meade and Sheridan, and to Wright 
(then at Danville), to pay no attention to Sher- 
man's armistice or orders, but to push forward and 

370 The Passing of the Armies 

cut off Johnston's retreat, while in fact Johnston 
had virtually surrendered already to Sherman. 
Halleck repeated this with added disrespect; and 
still more to humiliate Sherman, Stanton gave 
sanction by his name officially signed to a bulletin 
published in the New York papers entertaining 
the suggestion that Sherman might be influenced 
by pecuniary considerations to let Jeff Davis get 
out of the country. This was not short of infamous 
on Stanton's part. Sherman meant so to stigma- 
tize it, and he did, in the face of all on a supreme 
public occasion. With our experience of discipline, 
we wondered what the next move of Stanton 
would be. Sherman might have declined the 
President's hand; but President Johnson had 
assured him that he knew nothing about the 
bulletins, as Stanton had not consulted anybody 
nor shown them to any member of the Cabinet. 
Had the President sanctioned them, I doubt not 
Sherman would have resented the act from whom- 
soever coming. Sherman was a "hale fellow 
well met," but a hard fellow when unfairly 

For all General Sherman's compliments on the 
appearance of our army, he was quite sensitive 
about the comparison of the intrinsic merits of his 
army and ours. He did not hesitate to affirm that 
his army was superior to ours in drill and discipline. 
In precisely these points we could not agree with 
him. It is true that his troops in passing in review 
did keep their relative distances well, and their 
shoulders square and eyes steady to the front, 

Sherman's Army 371 

while it may be possible that some of our men may 
have turned their eyes towards the personages 
they were honoring, — as surely is the rule of 
courtesy in civil society, with which these men 
might be more familiar. But I think the General 
made too wide an inference from the narrow field 
of his observed instances. If comparisons are to be 
instituted, it may be that in marching his troops 
surpassed ours. That had been a large part of their 
business; our occupations had been more varied. 
We had done some running on several occasions, 
and a good deal of fighting. As to drill and 
discipline, the direct comparative evidence was 
scanty. But the probability "that the Army of the 
Potomac would be deficient in these respects is 
negatived by the presumption from the nature of 
the case: in the military character of our com- 
manders, and the exigency of the situation, which 
demanded that the men should be made proficient 
for their pressing need, and by every possible 
means drilled, instructed, and inured to the dis- 
cipline of the field; as also our proximity to the 
capital and the eyes of exacting critics. Foreign 
military observers had pronounced our drill and 
discipline to be of the highest order. 

It is possible that General Sherman may have 
felt the usefulness of bold assertion on this subject 
of his superiority in drill and discipline. We do not 
deem the decision a vital matter for our fame; but 
when invidious comparisons are announced by 
high authority, we may justly call attention to the 
evidence. In the qualities which make up human 

372 The Passing of the Armies 

nature our Western compatriots were certainly 
our equals. 

After this review, things were not so pleasant 
as they might be in our big camps along the river. 
At first the greetings were such as good-fellowship 
and novelty of intercourse prompted. But we 
were soon made aware of a feeling we had not before 
suspected on the part of many of our comrades of 
the Western army. We certainly had never had an 
intimation of it among the many Western men in 
our own army. There seemed to be a settled dislike 
to us, latent at least, among Sherman's men. In a 
certain class their manner was contemptuous and 
bullying. They threatened to come over and 
"burst us up, " and "clean us out. " Some directed 
their objurgations upon the whole "East," — the 
Yankees generally; and more against the Army of 
the Potomac in particular. "You couldn't fight. " 
— "You are babies and hospital cats." — "We did 
all the marching and all the fighting. " — "We had to 
send Grant and Sheridan up to teach you how to 
fight." — "Lee licked you, and was running away 
to get something to eat, poor fellow." — "You 
wouldn't have caught him if we hadn't marched 
two thousand miles to drive him into the trap." 
On some of these points we might be a little tender; 
though on the whole we thought the charge a 
perversion of fact. 

But we had some "Bowery Boys" and Fire 
Zouaves in our army too; and what they wanted 
was to get at these "Sherman's Bummers" and 
settle the question in their own Cossack and Tartar 

Sherman's Army 373 

fashion. In fact, so serious did the discord grow 
that the division commanders had to take positive 
measures for defense, — as thoroughly as before on 
the flanks of the Petersburg lines. We doubled 
all camp guards, and detailed special reserves 
ready for a rush; sleeping ourselves some nights 
in our boots, with sword and pistol by our sides. 
This was a serious condition of things. No wonder 
Sherman asked to move his army to the other side 
of the river. But the national authorities thought 
this would savor too much of recognition of a new 
secession, between the East and West. Such is the 
strange nature, — the human, likeness of interest 
holding masses together for the attainment of a 
great common cause, in which they show both 
loyalty and amity; but differences on a narrower 
scale, quickly throw men into an attitude quite 
antagonistic. It must be said that this hostile 
feeling towards the East was not a general senti- 
ment among our Western comrades, but only of a 
certain class accustomed to put their individu- 
alistic sentiments into execution more frequently 
and energetically than their sense of loyalty to the 
country. For our part, surely, we had no dislike 
to Western men, but quite the contrary, as very 
many of them bore close relationship to our New 
England families ; and as to the merits of Sherman's 
army we did not hesitate to do it justice or give it 
sincere and generous praise. The taunts thrown 
at us by men on that side met the retort from simi- 
lar characters on our side that in their boasted 
march to the sea they met only fat turkeys and 

374 The Passing of the Armies 

sucking pigs. What Httle truth there might have 
been under this satire we were not disposed to 
inquire, but did our best to rebuke such expressions 
and cultivate all around a spirit of broad loyalty 
and common good-will; as to the claim that 
"Sherman's army did all the fighting," we rested 
on the testimony of official figures, which showed 
the losses of Sherman's army from Chattanooga 
to Atlanta, 31,687 men; Meade's losses for the same 
period, from the Rapidan to Petersburg, 88,387. 
Time, however, soon settled these bickerings by 
separation and return to the duties of a common 



THE last days of our encampment before 
Washington gave us plenty of work, es- 
pecially for the officers, making up returns 
of government property: arms, clothing, tents, 
supplies of all kinds, for which they were re- 
sponsible and must give satisfactory account before 
they could be honorably discharged. For the most 
part the men were to take their equipments 
with them, as a matter of courtesy, I suppose, 
as these belonged to the United States. It was 
fair that these veterans should be allowed to take 
to their homes the arms they had honored, and 
permission was given them to purchase at a nom- 
inal value, it would not have been too much if 
the Government had granted these with such 
proud associations, to cheer the soldier in his re- 
sumed citizenship, rather than consign them to 
rust and oblivion in government stores. What I 
think very reprehensible was the practice per- 
mitted of selling overcoats at a cheap rate 
among workmen willing to buy them. This was a 
degradation of the uniform and of the men, and 


Zl^i The Passing of the Armies 

should never have been permitted. A soldier's 
overcoat should stand for honor and not for 

The men were kept at such work, whether of 
drill or other military duty, as the situation 
allowed. But it will be understood that it was no 
easy matter to keep things smooth, when so many 
men were congregated, and the imperative motive 
for discipline and good order was overpassed. 
The visitors became embarrassing. It was well 
and it was pleasant to afford to soldiers and 
their friends an opportunity to compare the 
methods of army life and home life. But these 
"friends" became a very extensive immigration, 
and some of them disturbed our soldiers with 
temptations of things that could not be tolerated 
either in camp or home. It was necessary to 
send some of these out of camp limits under escort 
and sometimes to greater distance; and finally to 
establish rigorous regulations about visitors. 

On the other hand, visits of our officers and men 
to the city soon became a feature of importance. 
Fair attractions across the river, dinners, parties, 
receptions, and other social entertainments, broke 
in upon the monastic habits of even the higher 
officers. A pleasant evening found most of them 
on the civil side of the river. Applications for leave 
of absence swelled to an inundation, and had to 
be met with restrictions. At last the War Depart- 
ment took notice of it ; and one night at about two 
o'clock an order came from Stanton requiring 
every commanding officer to sign a receipt, on 

The Disbandment 2>T7 

the order presented; and the result showed that 
only two generals of our camp were in their 

Now that the approaching close of our long and 
eventful career brought upon us a mood of reflec- 
tion, we gave more free thought to many things 
we had "pondered in our hearts." Our minds 
were still affected by disturbing impressions as to 
the peculiar management of tactics in our cam- 
paign of the Appomattox. We could not under- 
stand why the Army of the Potomac was so broken 
up and buffeted about. No merely military reasons 
for this could be conceived by us who certainly 
were interested parties, and competent witnesses, 
if not admissible as judges. This latter function 
was not part of our duty, but to some degree our 
privilege, and perhaps our right. We would not 
criticize our orders when received, but were not 
readily reconciled to measures which contradicted 
common sense and, as we thought, military 
economics. Why was the Army of the James 
marched a long, hard jaunt from its position on the 
right of the Petersburg lines and put in between the 
Sixth and Second Corps of the Army of the Poto- 
mac? Why not hold that army where it was next 
to the James River, and let our Sixth and Ninth 
Corps close in upon its left, and thus bring the 
Army of the Potomac together, instead of wedging 
it apart, and breaking up its continuity and 
identity? And why, in the early operations of the 
campaign, were matters so managed that the Fifth 
Corps, which had by hard fighting made an impor- 

378 The Passing of the Armies 

tant break on the right of the enemy's defenses, 
should in the midst of this success be suddenly 
withdrawn, abandoning all its advantages to go to 
the support of Sheridan's cavalry, which was not at 
any strategic front, — instead of having this cavalry 
support and follow up our infantry advance as the 
exigencies of the situation, specific field orders, and 
the main objective of the campaign justified and 
required? And why, in the pursuit of the broken 
enemy, were the Fifth and Sixth Corps time and 
again transposed from extreme right to extreme 
left, and the converse, now under Meade, now 
under Sheridan, they hardly knew at any moment 
which? And why was the Fifth Corps halted six 
miles short of Appomattox Station, to let the 
Army of the James pass it to join Sheridan at the 
front? There was another matter which perplexed 
our thought, although it brought honor rather than 
injury to the Fifth Corps. Why did Grant leave 
the front of Meade and the Army of the Potomac 
where the principal negotiations with Lee had 
already begun, make the journey to Sheridan's 
front where Ord of the Army of the James was 
in chief command, and arrange for the formal 
surrender to be carried out at this point? And 
why were the two remaining corps of the Army of 
the Potomac dispersed and detailed elsewhere, 
leaving its commander to exercise the functions 
of a mere adjunct office? Was this because the 
sterling Humphreys and Wright could not be 
made prominent without bringing in Meade, 
already doomed to the shades? We were left to 

The Disbandment 379 

our own opinions on these unanswered questions, — 
and we took them home with us. 

One question frequently brought to our minds 
by outside inquirers was whether from our observa- 
tion and experience we regarded Grant as a great 
general, — particularly in comparison with Lee. 
While our opinion could in no degree affect the 
reputation of either of these generals, it might 
disclose our own competency as judges. Hence, as 
these memoirs are supposed to reflect the intellec- 
tual as well as the military character of our soldiers, 
it may be proper to express what I understood to be 
their sentiment on this question. 

But first let us understand the meaning of our 
principal term. There are two conceptions of 
great generalship : one regarding practical material 
effects; the other essential personal qualities. 
In the former view we regard Attila, Genghis Khan, 
and Tamerlane as great generals. In the latter 
conception, — that of intrinsic qualities, — there are 
two views to be taken. This rank may be accorded 
to one who has the ability to accomplish great 
things with moderate means, and against great 
disadvantages; of this William of Orange is an 
example. Or, on the other hand, it may be applied 
to one who can command the situation, gather 
armies, control resources, and conquer by main 
force. Examples of this are familiar in history: 
Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon. 

A current and I think correct definition of great 
generalship regards not so much the power to 
command resources, or the conditions of a grand 

380 The Passinof of the Armies 

theater of action, as the ability to handle success- 
fully the forces available, be they small or great. 
And this, it will be seen, involves many qualities 
not readily thought of as military. Among these 
is economy in the expenditure of force. Another 
is foresight, the ability to count the cost before- 
hand and to discriminate between probabilities 
and possibilities, — prudence might be the word 
for this, did it not border on hesitation, which has 
wrecked some reputations, if it has made others. 
There is also astuteness, the ability to judge 
characters and the probable action of an adversary 
in given conditions. And we may add htimanity, 
regard for the well-being of the men employed in 
military operations, which might come also under 
the head of economics. 

Having thus considered the qualities involved 
in the term generalship, we will take up our opinion 
of the title to it on the part of the two opposing 

Grant was a strategist; he was not an economist. 
He saw what was to be done, and he set himself to do 
it, without being much controlled by consideration 
of cost or probabilities. His mechanical calculations 
often failed to hold good, — flank movements were 
often belated, and so anticipated and neutralized 
by the enemy's vigilance and celerity; direct front 
attacks often proved direful miscalculation and 
murderous waste. Great cost of human life in- 
volved in a proposed plan was not taken into the 
reckoning beforehand ; though regretted afterwards, 
it was not given weight in laying plans following. 

The Disbandment 381 

Though he studied lines of operations, foresight 
was not a characteristic of his; the resolve to do 
overbore all negations, and obliterated the limits 
of the possible. He so bent his energies on the 
main object ahead that he did not consider the 
effect of subordinate movements. He never seized 
the moment to turn disaster into victory. He 
seemed to rely on sheer force, rather than skillful 
manoeuvre. Grant kept his own counsel, almost 
to the extent of stolidity. He was rather critical 
in his estimates of subordinates; but did not 
study sufficiently the abilities and temperaments 
of his antagonists; so he was sometimes out- 
generaled — we do not like to say outwitted — by 
them. We would rather say he was checkmated 
by his own moves. He was tender-hearted, but 
did not admit that sentiment into his military 
calculations. We could see why he wanted Sheri- 
dan and not Meade for his executive officer. 

But for all this, and perhaps because of it, 
Grant was necessary to bring that war to a close, 
whether by triumph of force or exhaustion of 
resources. His positive qualities, his power to 
wield force to the bitter end, must entitle him to 
rank high as a commanding general. His concen- 
tration of energies, inflexible purpose, unselfishness, 
patience, imperturbable long-suffering, his masterly 
reticence, ignoring either advice or criticism, his 
magnanimity in all relations, but more than all his 
infinite trust in the final triumph of his cause, set 
him apart and alone above all others. With these 
attributes we could not call him less than great. 

382 The Passing of the Armies 

Then looking at the question on another side, 
the great scale of action and its incalculable results, 
we shall find this judgment abundantly cor- 
roborated. He had a great problem before him, 
involving issues which the wrestlings of nations 
and of ages had left unsolved, — the confirmation of 
a new world in its service to mankind and the 
purposes of God. Grant was a chosen minister 
of the Divine will, and in a manner was the re- 
sponsible agent for the executionof this vast design. 
He doubtless felt this. 

And what was revealed from on high he realized 
in fact. What other men could not do, he did. 
And to one who did this, to one who led these 
mighty hosts to mighty ends, we must accord the 
rank of great, whether as general or as man. This 
is the verdict of those who were witnesses, — 
servants and sufferers, — and it is our proud 

Our estimate of General Lee was that he exem- 
plified remarkable ability as a commander. In 
military sagacity and astuteness we recognized his 
superiority. In singleness of purpose, and patient 
persistence, like our own great commander, he was 
remarkable. In his constant care for his men, and 
especially in conduct after disaster, he won our 
respect and in some ways our sympathy. We 
regarded him as a master in military economy, 
making best use with least waste of material. 
And in defensive operations we looked upon him 
as a skilful tactician, taking best advantage of a 

The Disbandment 383 

In offensive operations, however, involving 
strategic considerations, he seemed to us not to 
reach the ideal of generalship. His two positive 
operations in Maryland and Pennsylvania, cul- 
minating in the Antietam and Gettysburg cam- 
paigns, must be accounted at best as failures, 
detracting, we must say, from the highest concep- 
tion of military ability. 

At Antietam, where he made us the attacking 
party, he showed his tactical skill in subjecting us 
to terrible losses; at Gettysburg, where he chose 
to take the offensive, he showed much less of that 
skill ; and the result in each instance reflects on his 
strategic ability, in not taking into account the 
probabilities in such an enterprise. However, in 
the main, considering the great responsibilities 
with which he was charged and the great difflculties 
which he had to meet and did meet so successfully 
and for so long a time, we cannot consider him as 
ranking less than great among generals, and of the 
best of them. 

As to personal qualities, Lee's utter unselfish- 
ness, in fact his whole moral constitution, appeared 
to us singularly fine. In his high characteristics 
as a man he compelled admiration among those 
who knew him, — even as we did, — and he will 
command it for all the future. 

We do not consider these statements of charac- 
teristics as complete or conclusive. Whatever 
may be the general or permanent estimate as to the 
place of these great commanders, we simply record 
this testimony from our own point of view. 

384 The Passing of the Armies 

A consideration which had great influence on the 
habits of thought which go to confirm character, 
was the cause in which each side was engaged. On 
both sides we had been fighting for what we re- 
spectively held to be the nature of our political 
life as a people. On the Confederate side they were 
fighting for existing institutions, having historic 
warrant, and, as they claimed, constitutional 
warrant also. As the war had to be carried on in 
the territory whence the challenge came, there was 
opportunity to make the gist of their cause very 
clear and expressible in quite concrete terms. They 
could say, for instance, that they were fighting for 
their homes. 

On our side the same general principles were 
affirmed; but their application was not limited to 
the existing status or institutions ; rather to guiding 
and germinant ideals: the expressed intent and 
purpose of our fathers in establishing the govern- 
ment of one great people, and the inborn right of 
every human being to make the best of himself, 
and the duty of all to help him to this. That is 
indeed a high ideal. 

It was night around us; but overhead were the 
stars. Things were in a chaos of transition; but 
the forward look was clear. If in these later days 
they have not yet been fully realized, these 
principles have been clearly reaffirmed, and our 
consecration has been made more binding by the 
priceless cost of the vindication. 

This vast concourse of citizen soldiers was now 
about to be broken up, its individual constituents 

The Disbandment 385 

scattered widely over the land, to resume their 
part in the wholesome and helpful activities of social 
life. Going forth from their homes at the call of a 
supreme duty, should they return home better or 
worse men than they went? It had been a careful 
and congenial effort of those charged with the 
care of the men in the field, not only to provide 
for their personal material comfort and well-being 
as far as possible under the circumstances, but 
also to encourage the keeping up and even the 
growth of the nobler qualities of character. The 
narrow and rude life of the field in warfare, so far 
from the saving and salutary influences of home, 
does not tend to promote the highest personal 
elements of character. Not that this life neces- 
sarily leads to vice; but no doubt it gives place to 
negligence of the better social instincts, and thus 
tends to narrow and harden the better sensibilities. 
Hence the great care that should be taken that our 
young men who sacrifice so much for the country's 
well-being shall suffer no detriment to their manly 
worth. Such care was manifest in the army life 
within our knowledge, — both in our army and 
Lee's, and presumably in others. 

Then as to the reactionary effect of warfare on the 
participants, — in the first place we cannot accept 
General Sherman's synonym as a complete con- 
notation or definition of war. Fighting and de- 
struction are terrible; but are sometimes agencies 
of heavenly rather than hellish powers. In the 
privations and sufferings endured as well as in the 
strenuous action of battle, some of the highest 


386 The Passing of the Armies 

qualities of manhood are called forth, — courage, 
self-command, sacrifice of self for the sake of 
something held higher, — wherein we take it 
chivalry finds its value; and on another side 
fortitude, patience, warmth of comradeship, and 
in the darkest hours tenderness of caring for the 
wounded and stricken — exhaustless and unceasing 
as that of gentlest womanhood which allies us to 
the highest personality. Such things belong to 
something far different from the place or sphere 
assigned in the remark of the eminent exemplar 
of the aphorism. He was doubtless speaking of 
war in its immediate and proximate effects as 
destruction. He did not mean to imply that its 
participants are demons. As to that, we may say 
war is for the participants a test of character; it 
makes bad men worse and good men better. 

After a while we were not looked upon with such 
wondering interest as at first. Nay, — we began to 
be feared as likely to be in the way of those who 
had a preemption right to civil favors. Now our 
camps were thinning ; our army was melting away. 
We too, in this fading camp, had opportunity to 
observe many things. Most manifest and largely 
shown it was that not a few about the capital 
were sorry the war was over; for this took the 
"soft snaps" away from them, and the soft spots 
out from under them. These persons soon pre- 
tended to be sole judges and champions of loyalty. 
There was a certain Demetrius once who made 
silver shrines for Diana, and did not like Paul 
because his teaching disturbed this sinecure. He 

The Disbandment 387 

skillfully therefore turned the issue upon religious 
loyalty. "Not only is this, our craft, in danger to 
be set at nought," he cries, "but also the temple 
of the great goddess Diana would be despised, and 
her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and 
the world worshipeth. " And they all cried, 
''Great is Diana of the Ephesians. " There were 
some loud -mouthed "patriots" about the capital 
whose zeal was rooted in the opportunity given by 
the country's distress for their own personal greed, 
and whose part in the service had been to get 
government contracts, and furnish cheap meats and 
musty and wormy hardtack and shoddy clothing 
to our worn, suffering soldiers, and even defective 
arms elsewhere rejected, to fail them in the des- 
perate moment of the country's defense. There 
were concerns there and in some of the loyal States 
who made it their business to furnish even "bogus " 
men, — men never born, and christened only by 
them in lists of fictitious names, sold to recruiting 
agents for towns trying to fill their quota of men 
for the depleted army in the darkest moment of 
the country's need, — and appropriate to themselves 
the high bounties paid by towns to "avoid the 
draft." Under the loud professions of such as 
these, it was easy to see the real regret and disgust 
they felt when the country had won its deliverance 
and the war was over, and their opportunity gone, 
■ — until they could get a chance at new commissions 
and agencies in the whirlpool of reconstruction 
then setting in. 

Disturbed at the thought that some deserving 

388 The Passing of the Armies 

soldiers might be found by the Government for 
places of trust and honor, these patriots began to 
detract and undermine, by suggestions of "dis- 
loyalty, " — an ambiguous phrase, meaning to them 
not blind following of some party chief and boss. 

The story that could be written of these things — 
will not be written. Even the proofs have dis- 
appeared in the free opportunities for this so easily 
obtained. It was well known to some of us that 
the records at the War Department had been 
rummaged and that documents important for 
truth and dangerous for pretenders had been with- 
drawn and doubtless destroyed. It came to our 
knowledge that even Treasury vouchers had been 
tampered with and the rascality undetected. 

The Government was kind : it meant to be just. 
But in its great burden of responsibilities it could 
not consider minor matters. The country had 
been saved; other interests must adjust themselves 
as best they could. 

I feel that I must not omit to mention here a 
species of injustice which affected us within 
strictly military aspects. I refer to the incon- 
siderate or reckless bestowal of brevets. This was 
very unjust to merit as well as injurious as policy. 
We had seen considerable lack of equity in this 
matter before the close of the war in the unevenness 
of scale on which different commanders secured 
brevets for their subordinates. One result of this 
was the relative injustice among those holding 
similar commands in different corps. Warm- 
hearted generals like Sheridan would be generous 

The Disbandment 389 

in their recommendation. Others of a severer 
temperament would move more slowly. Clear- 
seeing Humphreys, just and zealous for truth, 
protested against this inequality and tried to 
resist it, by recommending only for distinguished 
merit. But the key-note had been set; and to 
grant brevets for merit only would work practical 
injustice considering that others had been so 
promoted on other grounds. I have to confess that 
in some vexation of spirit I resolved to keep up 
with the best in recommending this honor for the 
officers of my division at the close of the war. 
But in the meantime the Government at Washing- 
ton was adopting this sweeping policy. Everybody 
was breveted one grade who asked for it, — 
one general order embracing very many ranking 
at one and the same date, which being arbitrarily 
fixed at a time previous to the heavy fighting of 
the last campaign, antedated the commissions of 
several who had won that honor as a special dis- 
tinction in battle. The meaning of the brevet is 
honorable distinction; this leveled all distinction. 
It destroyed the value of the brevet as recognition 
of past service or incentive for the future. There 
were those who had won their brevets while the 
life blood ran from their veins, at the deadly front, 
only to find themselves now equaled, parodied, 
outranked even, by their own subordinates and 
men who had scarcely seen the field at all. 

I may remark that being included in that general 
list referred to, although I had not asked for it 
or in any manner suggested it, I declined this 

390 The Passini^ of the Armies 

brevet, but in the first battle of the last campaign 
receiving the brevet of Major-General for special 
service reported by my corps commander, I did 
not officially accept the latter until we reached 
Washington, and the army was about to be mus- 
tered out. So this brevet was not officially recog- 
nized by the Government in the final orders for the 
disbandment of the army and my assignment to 
another corps. In truth I did not feel it now as a 
token of honor or an object of desire. The Govern- 
ment, however, thereupon sent me the later com- 
mission, which purported to be something worth 
receiving with responsive regard. 

Only the "Congressional Medal of Honor" had 
been held sacred, — not to be bought or sold, or 
recklessly conferred. It was held to be the highest 
honor, — recognition of some act of conspicuous 
personal gallantry beyond what military duty re- 
quired. Knowing what has happened with the 
cross of the " Legion of Honor" in France, and how 
sacred the "Victoria Cross" is held in England, we 
trust that no self-seeking plea nor political pressure 
shall avail to belittle the estimation of this sole- 
remaining seal of honor whose very meaning and 
worth is that it notes conduct in which manhood 
rises above self. May this award ever be for 
him who has won it, at the peril of life, in storm 
of battle, but let us not behold the sublime spec- 
tacle of vicarious suffering travestied by the im- 
position of vicarious honors. 

To resume the narrative, on the first day of 
July, while encamped before Washington, we re- 

The Disbandment 391 

ceived an order, which, though expected, moved 
us most deeply. The first paragraph was this: 

" Headquarters, Army of the Potomac, 

"June 28, 1865. 

"By virtue of special orders, No. 339, current 
series, from the Adjutant General's office, this 
army, as an organization, ceases to exist." 

What wonder that a strange thrill went through 
our hearts. 

Ceases to exist ! Are you sure of that? We had 
lately seen the bodily form of our army, or what 
remained of it, pass in majesty before the eyes of 
men ; while part of it was left planted on the slopes 
of the Antietam, on the heights of Gettysburg, 
in the Wilderness, on the far-spread fields and 
lonely roadsides of all Virginia, — waiting the 

The splendor of devotion, glowing like a bright 
spirit over those dark waters and misty plains, 
assures us of something that cannot die! The 
sacrifice of the mothers who sent such sons was of 
the immortal. All this must have been felt by 
those who gave the order. The War Department 
and the President may cease to give the army 
orders, may disperse its visible elements, but 
cannot extinguish them. They will come to- 
gether again under higher bidding, and will 
know their place and name. This army will 
live, and live on, so long as soul shall answer 
soul, so long as that flag watches with its stars 

392 The Passing of the Armies 

over fields of mighty memory, so long as in its 
red lines a regenerated people reads the charter 
of its birthright, and in its field of white God's 
covenant with man.